Ganesh Chaturthi – A Spiritually Significant Festival
“The significance of Ganesh is that he is supposed to remove all obstacles.” —Sadhguru
Why Do We Celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi?
Ganesha is a god with an elephant face. His face is not supposed to be that of an elephant, it is supposed to be a gana. He is called Ganapati, which means the chief of ganas. Unfortunately, down the millennia, some artist made a mistake and it became an elephant.
In India, in the months of August and September, we celebrate the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. We make an image of Ganesh with unburnt clay and worship him. Huge festivals happen around him. Some of the Ganesh images are immense – over a hundred feet tall. But after that period of one week to fifteen days is over – different times in different places – we immerse it in the lake or ocean, so that God dissolves.
They create a God, create a frenzy around him and make him their entire life. For those fifteen days or one month, there is nothing else but Ganesh. We eat what he eats, we only like what he likes, everything is about him. But then, one day, we dissolve him. Once he is dissolved, he is done. This is the only culture which is still conscious that God is our making.
Ganesh is the symbol of intellectual activity. He is the one who wrote down the Mahabharata. Ganesh’s challenge for Vyasa – the sage who dictated the Mahabharata to him – was that Vyasa should not pause in his dictation. It was a test for the sage, whether what he was speaking was really a fountainhead of his being or something scholarly that he made up in his head. So Ganesh said, “I will write only if it is uninterrupted dictation. If you pause somewhere, once I keep my pen down, I will not write again.”
So sage Vyasa spoke uninterrupted. It went on for months on end. Ganesh wrote without missing a single word. He was the best stenographer you can have!
He is the symbol of human intellect. This is symbolically very appropriate because this is the nature of your intellect. You can use it to consciously imagine something. And dissolving him is the symbol that if you use your intellect right, you can dissolve the world. Once you dissolve the world with your imagination, dissolving the activity of your intellect, switching off the imagination is not a big problem.
You can obliterate the universe with your imagination. The universe will not exist in your experience if you create a powerful imagination. If imagination is consciously developed, turning it off is easy. Right now, bits and pieces of imagination are happening unconsciously and it looks like it is impossible to stop it. The entire Ganesh Chaturthi festival is symbolic of this.
You must see the festivity that happens around him. Usually, he is kept in public places. Many streets are blocked for these fifteen days. Traffic is stopped, and he sits right in the middle of the street. Big celebrations happen and people live around him for this period, but when the time comes, they just dissolve him.
If only you could do this with your imagination and your intellect. Your mind is not an absolute thing, it is only a certain type of activity. If there is no thought, there is no such thing as mind because it is a certain activity. Consciousness is capable of being here without the assistance of activity. Activity does not make consciousness, consciousness makes activity.
I move the hand, the hand does not move me. It is me who moves the hand. Similarly, it is me who moves the mind. It is not the other way round. But it has become the other way round. The nature of your mind has become you. All the freaky stuff your mind does has become your quality. It is most important to reverse these roles because if your mind determines the nature of who you are, it is a terrible accident. If you determine the nature of your mind, something wonderful could happen.
History of Ganesh Chaturthi
In this article, Sadhguru tells the story of how Shiva cut off Ganesh’s head and reveals that contrary to popular belief, his head was not replaced by that of an elephant, but with the chief of Shiva’s otherworldly companions known as ganas.
Ganesh Chaturthi Special: Sadhguru Cooks and Relishes a Traditional Indian Sweet
Sadhguru: Way back when we were kids, it was part of the family ritual that only on this day, all the male members of the family would get into the kitchen and make Kadubu. It is called Kadubu in Kannada, Kudumu in Telugu and Mothagam in Tamil. My father would make a nice mouse with this rice flour, to be Ganesh’s vehicle. Do not ask me how anyone can ride a mouse, but Ganesh did. All that mattered was that Kadubu tasted good. Even if it was in the form of a mouse, we just ate it up because it tasted so good. We would make both sweet ones and a very spicy one.
The significance of Ganesh is that he is supposed to remove all obstacles. This does not mean that he is going to come and take away all your obstacles. Ganesh has a big head. They removed his small head and put a big head on him. He is supposed to be super-intelligent and also super-balanced. That is what Ganesh represents: if you have a sharp and balanced intelligence, then there are no obstacles in your life.
Importance of an Ecofriendly Ganesh
Ganesh as an idol must be made with natural and organic content. With soil, some millet flour or turmeric – these are the different ways to do it. You are not supposed to make him in plastic, because he will not dissolve. You are not supposed to burn the idol and make it like a pot. Nor are you supposed to paint plastic-coated paints on it because it will not dissolve. It will pollute the water and cause harm to yourself and to everyone else around you.
The most important aspect is that you have been given the liberty to create a God and then dissolve a God. This is a great privilege that no other culture allows you. Please use this privilege responsibly. Please use only organic, dissolvable material like soil, rice flour, millet flour or turmeric. These are usually the materials that have always been used and they will look very beautiful. If you think you must have a little color, please use vegetable dyes, which will make your Ganesh very aesthetically attractive and also environmentally friendly.
Editor's Note: Watch this video where Sadhguru talks about the significance of Ganesh Chaturthi in detail.