A Day When This Agnostic And Skeptic Keeps All Those Things Aside..
Hinduism and it's pantheon of gods and goddesses are well known. Each one has it's place in lore and the rich fabric of stories and tales about their genesis and their lives. I have always believed that for sheer diversity and imagination they are pretty much up there with any other religion.
That being said the elephant headed god Ganesha, easily occupies an important place in the rites and rituals of Hindu life.
From the wikipedia link here some information about Ganesha.
Sanskrit: गणेश or श्रीगणेश ( ) (when used to distinguish lordly status) (or "lord of the hosts," also spelled as Ganesa and Ganesh, often also referred to as Ganapati) is one of the most well-known and venerated representations of God. He is the first born son of Shiva and Parvati, and the husband of Bharati, Buddhi or Riddhi and Siddhi.
The lord of good fortune
In general terms, Ganesha is a much beloved and frequently invoked divinity, since he is the Lord of Good Fortune who provides prosperity and fortune and also the Destroyer of Obstacles of a material or spiritual order. It is for this reason that his grace is invoked before the undertaking of any task (e.g. traveling, taking an examination, conducting a business affair, a job interview, performing a ceremony,) with such incantations as Aum Shri Ganeshaya Namah (hail the name of Ganesha), or similar. It is also for this reason that, traditionally, all sessions of bhajan (devotional chanting) begin with an invocation of Ganesha, Lord of the "good beginnings" of chants. Throughout India and the Hindu culture, Lord Ganesha is the first icon placed into any new home or abode.
We have an icon of Ganesha outside our home too. I have also seen reverence or love for him cross all kinds of boundaries. One of our managers has two idols of Ganesha in his cube. Watertiger another blogger on my daily "to read" list is a self avowed secular humanist (she is Jewish) wears a pendant with Ganesha around her neck. We also have "C" visiting us from Connecticut and she is Jewish too, she wanted to visit us and experience some of our traditions. It's been fun having her over. There are examples of Muslims (and even Christians) involved in Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations, such as the Shri Sarvajanik Ganesh Mitra Mandal at Shri Sunder Kamala Nagar, King's Circle. As of 10th September 2005, a Muslim heads this particular Ganesh mandal (a small group that organises the local celebrations), which was founded by Wilson Brooks (a Christian) some 24 years ago.
I sometimes think some folks here in the US often are unaware of the rich traditions that exist in the various religions in the Indian subcontinent. They may know about religious conflict but not about the cultural give and take that happen amongst the Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs. This is not to discount that religious fundamentalism and intolerance exist, but there is a lot that brings people together despite their differences.
Back on track...
Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival which commences on the fourth day of the bright half of the month around August or September. It is variously celebrated for one, two, five, seven or 11 days.
My parents started celebrating this festival after they bought their own place.That was the promise they made. So for many years they have been observing this festival and following the rituals. They are pretty old now and no longer able to do this. My dad being my dad said if we did not want to do it it would be fine, he would consult with a priest about what would have to be done in case we no longer wanted to observe it the way we did. *A* and I decided we would continue this religious tradition here in the US.
So we have been doing so for the past 4 years or so. I perform the ceremony as instructed in the religious books and we do our best to honor all the traditions that go with it, including making Modaks. This is a sweet that is fav of Ganesha, recipe at the link.
They really turned out well, and tasty as well.
The first time we did this, we turned to the www to find a place to buy a clay idol of Ganesha. And I found a place run by an American in VA, they sell all kinds of religious icons and figurines, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, pagan. I was most surprised when I called and asked about an idol of Ganesha.
The guy said "Oh are you looking for something for Ganesh Chaturthi?". I was pleasantly surprised for he not only knew the festival he also said the words flawlessly in his American accent.
Anyways.. the picture of Ganesha from our ceremony today.
It has been a mixed year for us. A loss in the family, professional milestones reached and we bought a home. But on this day the loss of *A*'s brother from October last year hangs heavily over us. We spoke to his lil kid (she is 6), one of their things was he would take her around the city of Pune to see all the different community clebrations for this festival. The tradition will continue but without her dad. It's a loss that can never be overcome and as I spoke to her I could feel my voice cracking.. for where in the world does any child have to lose a dad at so young an age?
I have pondered this several times, and watching *A* deal with this (she is very close to her family) has been tough. But the examination and questions will wait another day.. for today is about carrying on some of our traditions in this land that is now our home and be thankful for the good that we have and just deal with everything as being part of life.