Friday, September 20, 2013


It is customary to give a warm send off to Lord Ganesha Moortis  temporarily installed for week- long or ten days of celebration at all  common places including temples to facilitate mass worship, in Maharashtra with the words "Ganapati Bappa Moriya (my own)! puduchya varshi laukar yaa-- Oh Lord Ganapthi, My beloved  Lord!  Soon return next year” where Ganesha worship is very popular, and then immerse the icon deep in running waters or deep sea. In Tamil Nadu where he is equally popular Tamils send off with affectionate words Ganapati Appane, Poria? Oh Lord  Ganesha, are you going away? Here he is leaving probably to his abode in Kailasa through the waters after visiting his second mother Ganga as Dvaimaatura. They then revert back to their routine Moorti worship waiting for his next visit  on another Ganesh Chaturthi Day.
 I do not know why people call this act as Ganapati  Visarjan   instead of Ganapati  Moorti  Visarjan.   As usual each one comes with his own theory and nobody can question those wisdom thoughts! It will  however occupy the mind of American Hindu Kids to say that Ganesha is thrown away or discarded as they usually employ a well painted paper-mache or a beautiful burnt clay idol. But why this send-off of repetitive or cyclic nature symbolized in action and worship with lot   of fun fare? Aavaahana brings the Lord from the concept of Niraakara (formless) to Saakaara (form) and again in Visarjana from Saakaara to Niraakara as the idol which came from the clay of river bed goes back to the river bed as clay.  Saakaraa needs physical medium. This comes out of elements, earth, water, air, fire and ether. After Visarjan this form merges with nature reminding us of the cyclic nature of life.  As is usual with Hindu concept there are deep hygienic, ecological and spiritual significance in Hindu form of worship. It is necessary to revive the bed of the rivers and lakes exposing fresh soil by removing surface soil. When it returns with antiseptics like turmeric and vermilion it helps the living water creatures. That is why there is the orthodox view to make Ganesha idols out of clean river-bed clay and natural colors and not plaster of Paris. Of late bio-degradable   paper-mache idols are also popular.  In strict religious sense even these temporary idols are installed with suitable invocation prayers to the Supreme to grace the idol with temporary divine presence as water in Kalasa into which holy rivers are invoked.
During Jeernoddhaarana, the divine presence in the Murtis must be transformed to the sanctified holy waters in the Kalasaas. The Kalasaas and Utsava murtis (bronze idols taken out in procession) remain in a miniature structure known as Baalaalaya. During the period of restoration of temple, the devotees will not be able to view or do poojas to the Moola vigrahas (stone idols) because the divine presence is temporarily withdrawn.  During Visrjanam of the temporary idol similar rituals are employed to withdraw the divine power in the idol and return the art piece back to its source. Somehow we have displaced the old tradition of pure clay models with new innovations with no proper explanation except it gives livelihood to many artists and promotes a sentimental and profitable business.     Goddess Gowri molded Ganesha's form from exfoliates of her skin. She is mother earth and clay symbolizes her body's exfoliates from which Ganapati was formed. In simple symbol worship,  Ganesha is made with vermilion, turmeric, flour or are-ca-nut and betel tied with a sacred thread all being  natural elements. These go back to nature when invoked deity is withdrawn by visarjan, being biodegradable.
In Hindu Moorti Upaasana  worship where permanent deities are installed with elaborate consecration ceremony extending over 48  days,  God is invoked or woken up before worship and is given a warm send off to rest, the way we treat an honored guest regularly.  In the temporary installations of Ganesha Puja the icon is invoked by prayers for divine presence and given a warm send off by Visarjan pooja. When Visarjan is completed the icon gets back to a lifeless art piece.  We buy molded Ganesha in the lifeless form or when we just han-mold prior to worship. An icon is not fit for worship if signs of deterioration or cracks are developed in the consecrated Moorti. Hence the need for a quick send off.  Those of you, who are familiar with Jagannath worship, know such a system is built in as the Moorti here is of wood. We have learnt about it in detail in the discourse on Jagannath.  Probably   Visarjana draws its support from Nava kalebar ritual or Jeernoeddhara ceremony.  Jagannath tradition is very old and pre-dates Ganesha worship. Even in other temples if the permanent Moortis  become defective or damaged they are suitably disposed of  with sacred ritual and a new deity installed in its place as happened in ancient Guruvayur Temple of Kerala due to fire devastation of the temple recently which claims its origin to Viswakarma’s  architecture and craftsmanship.
The permanent Moorti in Melkote in Mysore, an ancient Moorti of unknown origin is so worn out that no Abhisheka is possible today. But it has not cracked.  So Abhisheka is carried out once a year on the permanent Moorti. Regular Abhishekas are carried out on processional deity. So is the Abhisheka of  Lord Jagaanntha on mirror image with small quantities of Pooja ingredients in daily worship. In Sravana Belugola the moorti of Gomateswara cracked at many places.  Jain devotees repaired the Moorti with the help of French Geologists.  They are not Aagama based. Such a thing is not possible in Hinduism.  It seems more logical and sensible to restrict Abhisheka for the main deity on special festival days only and carrying out   routine Abhisheka on processional deity. This would save lot of food material which could be diverted to poor feeding. This will give long life to deity also, reduce the strain on waste water treatment as Abhisheka materials today are mostly diverted to municipal sewers for treatment.  In olden days they used to be diverted to temple agricultural lands for enriching the soil.  Abhisheka is a colorful ceremony and devotees would like to watch it as often as possible but we should restrain from overflow of Bhakti for other reasons as we restrict individual Visarjan ceremony of Ganesha in temple premises.
The other ritualistic form of invoking deity is in Kalasa of an earthen pot filled with water.  In this also  the waters go back to  the nature after visarjan when the invoked deity is withdrawn after final pooja. In the concept of Puranic religious worship Lord Ganesha comes to us heeding to our prayers to take care of our worries and troubles during Ganesha Chaturthi time and goes back to his abode Kailasa building comfort and happiness in us and after the religious visarjana ceremony joins his mother, Gowri (Mother Earth). That is why the Moorti is immersed in deep waters and in running waters.  As you all know Ganesha is called Dvaimatura, meaning one who has two mothers. It seems Parvati after molding Ganesha from her body scum threw the lifeless molded figure to Ganges Waters. Mother Ganga brought life into his body. Hence he is also called Ucchishta Ganapati associated with remnants worthy of discarding (body impurities). In the process Ganesha also calls on his other mother Ganga annually. From a spiritual angle during Ganesha Chaturthi celebrations we get deeply involved in Moorti Upaasana to rise ourselves to divine heights. Then-after the symbols and Moortis have no meaning for the spiritually enlightened seeker. He then starts on his Brahmoepaasana (Meditation on Brahman) on Niraakaara   Brahman.  
In our Ashtoettara satanaamaavali we pay our obeisance to him as Gunaateeta but also Sat-chit- Aanada Vigrahaaya in place of Roopaya or simply Sat-chit-Aanadaaya to pay our obeisance.  Let us not become   unfortunate victims like Kumbhakarna who unknowingly opted for Nidra for Ninda by twist of tongue managed by Vagdevi Saraswati to bring his end.  In all our prayers and in our act of Visarjana ritual we want to progressively move out of Moorti Upaasaana to Brahmoepasanav looking forward t  spiritual path at least towards the latter part of our life. Moorti Upaasana is needed for the young and immature minds as often emphasized by our Gurus. But are we condemned to be ignorant  all through in this life? If not how long we are to carry on with this concentration on divine invoked objects and when we should start our direct communion with Brahman? Some where we have to make a beginning.  Vivekanada Rock Temple has shown a way.   At the end of the participation in worship rituals  on Saguna Brahman devotees retire and  sit in a place of silence and meditate for few minutes keeping in mind Om the only symbol displayed in the hall.  Bahai Temple in Delhi also follows this pattern.  After the loud and boisterous Ganapati Visarjan and grand farewell, silence will not prevail in the devotee hall or Mukhya Mantap with so many children around. Even with the display of Keep Silence Boards children would love to play with Bala Ganesha and Bala Krishna or Bala Murugan. As matured elders and religiously refined we should concentrate on Nara-Gaja, like on Nara-Narayana in pure silent meditaton for spiritual elevation.  Let us set up here in USA an example that way to our counterparts in India too for they have not taken a lesson from Vivekananda Rock Temple.  Here Nara-Gaja represents Microcosm and Macrocosm. Ga indicates Gati, the final goal   towards which the entire creation is moving whether knowingly or unknowingly. Ja means Janma or birth or origin. Therefore Gaja means The Supreme from whom the world comes and towards whom they are progressing to be ultimately dissolved in him.
For  an American born and brought up here, Ganapati Visarjan means discarding the Moorthi after its use, unless Sunday school has taken some pains to explain the Philosophy behind it.  To a religiously devoted it means bidding good-bye to Ganesha who makes his Annual Visits like Aiyappan and returns back  to Kailasa to live with parents, a long holiday.  Devotees eagerly wait for Ganesha’s next arrival chanting all the time Sat-chit–Aaannda Vigrahaaya Namah;  for a religiously  involved  devotee everything  should be icon before him which he can touch and feel and so he has even reduced Parabrahman to a  down-to-earth Moorti  form as seen in his Ashtoettara Naamaavali which contains lot of description of Puraanic Ganesha.   Unfortunately Garbhagrihas are out of bounds (for fear of violation of Aaagama etiquettes)  except for benevolent Rudra in his Linga form in the sanctum or special Linga provided for the purpose of Abhisheka. So we flood him profusely with rich food items  in  the abhisheka   ritual keeping the American kids wondering why their  parents waste so much food items and not give it away to unfortunate children,   who are not rich and affluent like them.   Ganesha out-beats his father with his huge belly and trunk and consumes more natural products in Abhisheka.  To such over-poured devotee  with Bhakti with the loud  expression  Ganapati Bappa Moria ,  he is always Gajavadana, the elephant-faced one. They have lot of time and several births to elevate themselves spiritually; why not then enjoy in the ocean of Bhakti, they say! To the spiritually anxious he is Nara-Gaja, where Gaja stands for Naaraayana. To him he is Nara-Naaraayana, unseen, but one who guides him to spiritually elevate depending on his performance.  He struggles hard to reduce his future births as much as possible in this very life.  Some can even become Jeevanmuktas ((liberated in this very life) on this Earth like Sankara, say the Advaitins.

1.       Swami Bhaskarananda, Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
2.       Swami Sivananda, Hindu Festivals and Fasts, Divine Life Society, Hrishikesh, India.
3.       Swami Nityanand, Symbolism in Hinduism, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai, India.
4.         Mukundan T.K., A Concept of Hinduism, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India.