Today is one particular God’s birthday and his name is Ganesha. So we the ones who look to him for blessings and depend on him in a time of need are celebrating it. I know this might sound a little out of line but I’ve always preferred Ganesha to every other god. He just seems the more approachable one, more friendly and not so preachy or demanding. If there was ever a God who carried himself with swagger it was Ganesha the other was Krishna. But that’s just my opinion.
His life wasn’t easy, his own father cut his head off the day he was created and replaced it with an elephant’s head. It doesn’t get more complicated than that. Yet he never held a grudge, just against the moon for laughing at him when his stomach burst from eating too much. He is every writer’s dream, he wrote the longest epic dictated to him without a pause and when his pen wore away, he just broke off one of his tusks and continued writing.
Today morning as we conducted the same rituals my Mum has been following ever since I could remember when we prayed to him my Dad and I sang Happy Birthday to him. I mean it’s only fair, there are enough hymns in Sanskrit to be sung on the occasion, but we don’t really know the lyrics to those. We skipped the part that said, ‘may God bless you’ because you know, that would be awkward.
I grew up hearing tales about Ganesha, he was one of the few gods who had a sense of humour. He was not as angry as his father for sure whose third eye could wreak havoc on the world, I mean he did chop his son’s head off so… And every time I heard or read another story on the friendly and intelligent God the more I realised how little I know him. Every book said the story differently, everybody told me the same story with completely different details.
Every time his birthday came around, huge idols would line the streets, colourful Ganeshas sitting in the same pose, waiting to be bought and in various sizes from those that could fit in the palm of my hand to twice the size of me. Each one bought would be immersed in a water body with gusto, pomp, and a procession of people dancing down the streets. That’s a real party, imagine if on your birthday someone carried you on their shoulders, and the whole neighbourhood danced and paraded you around, with song and dance going crazy and then would put you in a lake or river. It’s a pool party and a rave all in one.
I used to watch the procession, the same drums and trumpets, and people shouting the God’s name out for everyone to hear. That’s how much they love that God to shower him with this treatment. They wake up early, take a shower, recite prayers and prepare Ganesha’s favourite food which everyone likes. I must say Ganesha was quite the foodie and he had a very good taste. Every year it’s an event for which preparations begin early, and credit must go to the people for giving it so much importance. You can forget your own birthday and birthdays of the people you live with but there’s no way you can miss your God’s birthday.
I am not religious, I find religion problematic but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the good stuff that comes out of it. I just wish for the sake of religion people wouldn’t hurt each other and fight. I don’t see the point, certain things that religion prescribes can’t work in today’s context and we have to update religions to fit today’s world. So if you know that immersing a neon-coloured Ganesha made out of toxic materials will affect the ecosystem of the water body and will contribute to the destruction of environment then perhaps we should find a new way to celebrate the God’s birthday.
From the stories I grew up hearing, I can tell Ganesha’s far more intelligent than all of us put together if he won’t agree with the idea of an eco-friendly birthday then who will? Anything that negatively affects the world should stop. It’s silly to think that would offend God because that goes against every description of God we’ve heard.
We practice what we’ve been taught, and it’s never too late to change. I will never be able to subscribe to religion because I don’t see its use in my life. I believe in certain things that are beyond my control and if you want to call it God, go ahead. I’ve heard that Gods are strong, understanding and impartial, we’re told that God knows everything, he is powerful and gets rid of evil, so why are people the ones who are putting the wrong words in God’s mouth? Who are we to decide how God would act and what he likes and doesn’t?
As far as I know, none of us has met any of our Gods, if someone believes they have then they should think again. Why don’t we leave the unknown and start focussing on what we know? Ganesha is great, and I’m glad I get to celebrate his birthday but if he lives among us and as per the theories he’s everywhere and he knows everything and will read this I think he’d agree with me.