It is well-known that Rishis-Sages who have retreated deep within themselves can hear the hum of the ‘Om’ pervading the Universe. NASA recently recorded the sound vibration from the Sun - Om!
When given form, Om is Lord Ganesh. He is invoked at the start of all events.
Lord Ganesha, is worshipped as 'The Beginning,' ' The Key to Knowledge, and 'The Remover of Obstacles.' With an elephant head on a chubby boy's body, he invokes a picture of love and compassion, ensuring success.
In India, Ganesh has many names like Ganapati, Vighnesvara, Gajanana, Gajadhipati, Lambkarn, Lambodar and Ekadant, while in Indonesian language he is named "Gajah" which is derived from Sanskrit word "Gaja" or elephant. In Thailand, he is usually referred to, as Phra Phikanet or Phra Phikanesuan – usually in a Lord Ganesha mantra set to an Indian-Thai music.
People all over the world and through time memorial, are drawn to the elephant-headed image. Normally offerings made to Lord Ganesh are laddus - an Indian sweet made from rice flour, sugar, and ghee, shaped into a ball, and modakam - a rice dumpling made with a sweet filling of freshly grated coconut and jaggery/raw-sugar.
In his hands he holds an axe to cut the ties that bind, a rope in the other to pull you towards the spiritual path, while waiting to feed you with either the modak or laddu of sweet enlightenment.
In many parts of India, it has been customary for families to install clay images to be worshiped. Believed to have South Indian origins, his birthday is celebrated not only all over India, but also is also observed in Nepal and by Hindus elsewhere such as in the Trinidad, Suriname, Fiji, Mauritius, United States and Europe (such as in Tenerife, Spain).
This festival is a mammoth one. A journey to ancient Hindu-influenced parts of the world which is almost all of Southeast Asia reveals the fact. Just like in Cambodia, Vietnam, and some other Southeast Asian countries, Hinduism was a big part of the beliefs of Indonesians. Examining decrepit and remnants of more than 300 years (some are more than 1000 years) aged temples found and excavated in Indonesia, there located - are prominent Ganesh statues.
Most of them are still intact and preserved in museum and some are still on their places where they were placed more than one hundred decades ago. There are at least more than 15 spots all over Indonesia where Ganesh statues were found.
In Thailand, which is predominantly Buddhist, people also pay their respects to many Hindu deities. Phra Phikanet, as discussed earlier is easily recognizable as Ganesh (Ganesha), the elephant-headed god.
There are a number of Ganesh shrines and statues throughout Thailand. One of the most famous is located in Bangkok’s Ratchaprasong shopping district.
The Ganesh shrine is located at Central World in front of the Isetan store on Ratchadamri Road.
Popular offerings include models of elephants, fresh marigold garlands, sweets, bananas and sugar cane.
Lord Ganesh's birthday take place in a grand manner at the Shiva Temple in Bangkok and the Utthayan Ganesh Temple in Nakhon Nayok where Thai Buddhists also take part in the celebrations alongside Hindus.
In Goa, Lord Ganesh’s birthday is known as Chavath in Konkani, and Parva, as auspicious beginning.
Traditions vary from worshipping him for a day to ten-eleven days. At the end of the festival, the image is immersed in a lake, pond or sea.
In Tamil Nadu the festival, also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi or Pillayar Chaturthi, falls on the fourth day after the new moon in the month of Āvaṇi in the Tamil calendar. The idols are usually made of clay or papier-mâché, since plaster of Paris idols have been banned by the state government. Idols are also made of coconuts and other organic products.
Several eco-friendly alternatives have been made. To save the environment and to encourage people to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi in an eco-friendly way, a 30 year old sculptor Dattadri Kothur has just created an innovotive Ganesh idol which gives birth to trees.
He has been making idols for the last 7 years but only last year he came up with the idea of “Tree Ganesh” – an idol of Lord Ganesha with seeds hidden in his belly. The image is made by hand using all natural materials, shaped like clay which makes it easy to dissolve and slowly the seeds begin to germinate.
Here in the UK, a Southall-based organisation, celebrated Ganesha Chaturthi officially for the first time in London in 2005 at the Vishwa Hindu Temple; the idol was immersed in the River Thames at Putney Pier. Another celebration, organised by a Gujarati group, has been celebrated in Southend-on-Sea and attracted an estimated 18,000 devotees. Annual celebrations are also held on the River Mersey in Liverpool.
In Wimbledon, London there will be a grand celebration in the popular Shree Ganapathy Temple, which has an inclusive approach to the surrounding community. There will also be continuing pujas and celebrations in the Wales Sri Kalpaga Vinayakar Temple, in Port Talbot.
The Philadelphia Ganesha Festival is one of the most popular celebrations of Ganesha Chaturthi in North America, and it is also celebrated in Canada, Mauritius, Malaysia and Singapore. The Mauritius festival dates back to 1896, and the Mauritian government has made it a public holiday. In Malaysia and Singapore, the festival is more commonly known as Vinayagar Chaturthi because of the large Tamil-speaking Hindu minority.
This year, in July we were thoughtfully presented with a much longed-for garden image of Lord Ganesha, who sits at our doorway alongside with Buddha. Every time we enter, we feel blessed to have him guarding as the presiding deity of our home. On Friday 25th August, when we have our traditional puja, we know we will be connecting with people all over the world, and we will be well aware as Amma- Mata Amritanandamayi says,
“We are all beads
Strung on the same thread
Each one is different
Yet all are the same
Love is the thread
That joins us together
Love is the essence of
God in us all”
Happy Ganesh-Vinayaka Chaturthi - Jai Ganesha!