Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee | 8.9.19
Among all the Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Ganesh is arguably the most loving and endearing. Unlike many other Gods, Ganesha is potbellied and loves food. He has a child-like charm and traits- that makes him a loving God. He also, many scholars believe represent the subaltern and therefore commands the respect and love of larger number.
In Maharashtra, Ganesh Chaturthi is the biggest festival, like Durga Puja is in West Bengal. Both these festivals offer studies in similarities and contrasts. Where community celebrations are concerned, Ganesh or Vinayak Chaturthi Festival organized by the community in Maharashtra is 26 years older than Kolkata’ Sarvajanin (community) Durga Puja. There is a clear record about the Chaturthi being celebrated in a collective form in Pune in 1892. Then, came Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who started spreading Ganesh Utsav all over Maharashtra from 1894 onwards. . It was Shivaji, whose rule extended till 1680, celebrated this occasion on a grand scale and the Maratha empire spread it. We find references to Ganesh puja through the next three centuries.
It is interesting that both Maharshtra’s Ganesh Festivals and Kolkata’s Durga Puja Festivals were actually expressions of a strong nationalist sentiment.
John Murdoch, who compiled descriptions of Indian festivals from the accounts of European observers in the 19th century, mentioned it. “Ganesa, said to be the son of Siva and Parvati or of Parvati alone, is worshipped under the names of Ganesa, Vinayaka, Ganapati, Pillayar, etc. He is worshipped in every Hindu home and every school boy begins his lessons by lessons with ‘Sri Ganesaya Namah’; every Indian book opens with it. Every merchant asks his help before commencing any business. In marriages and every kind of religious ceremonies, Vinayaka is first invoked. “Ganesh’s role was also noted in the 19th century by H.H. Wilson who said “A Hindu thinks that if his efforts are a failure this is not due to his own incapacity, but to demoniacal obstruction. The aid of Ganesa, as lord of demons, is therefore sought”. This demon term is very interesting because Ganesh, had links with subaltern creatures, called Ganas, not ‘demons’. ‘Ganas’ consisted of the whole range of so-called ‘unclean’ and short non-Aryan people, ie, Bhootas, Nagas, Yakshas, Pisachas, Guhyakas, Gandharvas, Vidyadharas, Raksha-ganas, Siddhas, Pramathis and others. They were severely vilified by Sanskrit society, but as India moved away from this minority view of life and the strong majority presence was felt and the skills of the darker people were accepted, this toxicity mellowed.
As Jawahar Sircar writes, “Ganesha is thus a metaphor for the new composite India and the appellation Vighneswar or Vighna-Raja, actually its meaning changed from the “lord of all troubles” to the “remover of obstacles.”
He is mentioned in the Shiva Puran, the Shanti Parva of Mahabharata and continued, however, to be Gana-isa or Gana-pati, the lord of the tribe of Ganas, never obliterating his origins. Ganesh is, thus, one more of the non-Sanskritic deities to join the Indian pantheon like Kubera, the wealthy yaksha or Hanuman. Most animals deities found their way to holy precincts as ‘vahans’ of the Gods, but at least three of them are found worshipped in the own right, ie, Hanuman, the snake goddess under different names and the elephant-headed Ganesh. There are a lot of tales about how Parvati’s new son lost his own head in battle and an elephant’s head had to fitted in, but the basic point is that this dominant animal of India walked into Devalaya, on the body of a young god. It represents, most probably, a pre-Hindu cult that thus got absorbed into the pantheon. In the ever expanding domain of civilisation in India, where the Kshetra or human settlements kept overpowering the Vana-anchal, the elephant was a major link that moved from the pristine jungle to the urban habitat, and its utility was even more, in both war and peace. It was a symbol of royalty and divinity as in Airavat, the elephant of Lord Indra, or in Maya’s dream of a celestial elephant and Buddha’s Divine Conception. He was just too powerful to be left unattended.
This year, Ganesh Chaturthi was on 2 September. Interestingly that was also World Coconut Day. Coconut is described as ‘Tree of life’ or ‘Heavenly tree’ or ‘Tree of abundance’, because of its unique property by providing food, nutrition, drink, health, aesthetic sense, building material, and other useful household material.
In Hinduism, offering coconut to God and Goddess is a most common practice. Also known as Sriphala in Sanskrit, Coconut is referred as God’s fruit.
The three marks on the coconut (Nariyal) are considered to be the three eyes of Lord Shiva. That is why coconut is termed as auspicious in puja rituals. There is interesting story linking Ganesha with coconut. The story goes like this: as a kid, Ganesha got attracted to lord Shiva’s third eye and went to touch it. It is then lord Shiva created coconut in the shape of a ball with three ‘eyes’ and offered it to Ganesha to play with instead of touching his third eye.
The coconut fruit is also a symbol of human ego (ahankar). The breaking of coconut is a representation of breaking one’s ego and humbling oneself before God. It is believed that before surrendering oneself to god, one should free themselves from ignorance and ego to remove the human tendencies that come in a way to get blessings from God.
Keeping the stories and myths around coconut aside, if we look at its practical uses, tender coconut water is the most liked and sought after beverage during summer. It has numerous medical advantages. Coconut, coconut oil and coconut milk are real fixings in numerous nourishment plans; it diminishes stoutness and advances assimilation. Coconut leaves are utilized to make sweepers, bushels, mats and any such items of household necessity .
The coir from the coconut is common versatile fiber which can be utilized to make ropes, strings, mats, stuffing for sleeping cushion and so on.
Coconut shell and husk are the wellspring of charcoal and can be utilized as fuel. Handicraft items are also made from coconut shell.
Newspaper Carrier Day
I have spent one and a half decade of my life in newspaper offices. I worked as a reporter, sub-editor. Before joining academics, I was Edition in charge of a major Odia newspaper. But I did not know that there is a day dedicated to the persons who delivers the newspapers at our home. I learnt recently that 4 September is observed as ‘Newspaper Carrier Day. It recognizes the dedicated newspaper carriers who deliver the newspaper in the wee hours of the morning. In India, they are generally called hawkers. They are the last mile service provider, an important link between the reader and the paper.
Though the newspapers have evolved and changed in look and content, the routine of the newspaper carrier has not changed much over the years in India. Despite the coming of age of digital duniya, the newspaper carriers (we call them hawkers) are still ubiquitous in Indian cities and towns. The average age of a newspaper hawker or carrier has changed, though, since the dawn of the first paper carrier. They all owe their start to an enterprising young immigrant in New York City over 180 years ago.
According to a captioned photo released by the Museum of the City of New York, The Sun’s publisher Benjamin Day hired the first paperboy on September 4, 1833. Ten-year-old Barney Flaherty answered the advertisement that September day although the ad specified that “steady men” could apply. Benjamin Day was so impressed by the boy’s sincerity, he gave him the job. And thus began a profession, which became an important part of newspaper business.
Tailpiece: Irony of Life
The Lawyer hopes you get into trouble,
The Doctor hopes you get sick,
The Police hopes you become a Criminal,
The Teacher hopes you are born Stupid,
The Landlord hopes you never buy a House,
The Dentist hopes your tooth decays,
The Mechanic hopes your car breaks down,
The Coffin Maker wants you dead……..
Only a Thief wishes you prosperity in life and sound sleep
(Courtesy: Social Media)
The author, a journalist turned media academician lives in Central Odisha town of Dhenkanal. An anthology of his weekly column Window Seat, published in 2018 has been published as a book. Write to him to get a free e-copy. [email protected]