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26 April 2014

Book Review: 99 Thoughts on Ganesha: Author: Devdutt Pattanaik

Yesterday, while walking around in my home, frustrated at having nothing to do, I cast my eye on my bookshelf. There were a few books that I had purchased recently with the idea of reading them later. I picked the book '99 Thoughts on Ganesha' by Dr.Devdutt Pattanaik. It is a reasonably good read I must say. Some parts of the book is fascinating and inspiring while other parts of the book are plain ordinary. There is a lot of repetition in the book, for example, early in the book the author tells the story of how Parasurama cut off one of the tusks of Ganesha, and soon enough, as  the author mention Ganesha's tusks, I was like 'Not Parasurama Story again...'.

For those who do not know, Ganesha is the elephant headed god who is worshipped in India before the start of any auspicious functions. He is the creator and hence remover of obstacles. It is believed that before we start any good deed, we should start by offering prayers to Ganesha.

How did Ganesha get his Elephant Head? The story is that once while Parvati was taking a bath in a pond, she asked Ganesha to stand guard outside and watch over her clothes and prevent anyone from entering. While she was bathing, Shiva came there. Ganesha did not allow Shiva to enter the pond premises and Shiva in his fury cut off Ganesha's head. 

Once Parvati came to know of this she was inconsolable. She demanded that Shiva bring back the child. Shiva asked his Ganas to go northward and bring the head of the first animal that they see. They brought the head of an Elephant and Shiva fitted the Elephant head in Ganesha's body.

Fascinating aspect of Ganesha is about how Ganesha is a benevolent deity in India and a malevolent deity in our neighboring country Nepal. In India Ganesha is 'Vignaharta (Remover of Obstacles)' and in Nepal Ganesha is 'Vignakartha (Creator of Obstacles)'. Another aspect of Karthikeya ('Murugan' in South India) is that in South India he is a married god while in North India he is considered to a warlord whom women dread and do not pray to.

Another fascinating aspect is regarding why Ganesha is named 'Morya' in Maharashtra. There are two possible reasons. One is that peacock (called 'More' in Hindi) is the vehicle of Ganesha. Another is that the predominant temple of Ganesha in Maharashtra is the temple of Sri Moreshwar (Mayureshwar) temple in Moregaon. As a non-maharashtrian, I always wondered why Ganesha was called 'Morya'.

Now I know.

Did you know that in parts of US, they celebrate 'Pancha Ganapati Puja' for five days between December 21 and December 25? This is because last week of December is the period of Christmas for Christians and Hanukkah for Jews. Since all the children will have something to celebrate during this period, they started this puja during that period so that Hindu Children can also enjoy the holidays. During this period, on each day, Ganesha is bedecked with different colours starting with Golden Yellow, through Royal Blue, Ruby Red, Emerald Green and finally Brilliant Orange...

Fascinating. Isn't it?

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