This September Rishikul Yogshala observed Ganesh Chaturthi with great pomp and show. The festival is held every year to honour Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles and bringer of prosperity. One of the most prominent gods in the Hindu pantheon, Ganesha is widely worshipped all over the country and has special significance for yoga practitioners in terms of symbolism.
Yoga and The Symbol of Ganesha:
The elephant-headed deity is understood as the embodiment of the Supreme Consciousness governing this universe. The “gan” in the name of the god means “group” and signifies the diverse energies of the world which would be in chaos if not ruled by the Absolute.
Yoga practitioners on a quest to find the Supreme One in and around themselves, often find the symbol of Ganesha at par with their motto.
The ritual honouring Ganesha spans more than ten days reaching the peak of celebration on Chaturthi or the fourteenth day of the fortnight. The ceremony is marked by joyous group worship, bringing people of many yokes closer in celebration and prayers to the deity. Yoga students hailing from various parts of the world throw themselves in the festivities with gusto. Hymns to the Lord are sung in unison and sweets are distributed at the end of each session. Kept on a high pedestal in the common room of the school, the idol looks resplendent.
Presided over by the respected teachers and the appointed priest, the students gather around the idol to listen to mythological narrations about Ganesha’s birth and other legends. These are inspiring as well as amusing tales which fill the audience with awe.
The fire ritual is another attraction of this inspiring ceremony. The light of auspiciousness is lit to spread hope. It is indeed a joy to find people from all walks of life and cultures gathered in this merriment regardless of their differences.
Special Food and Offerings:
Like in any other religious observance of India, Ganesh Chaturthi is not without great food. Sweetmeats known as “modak” are the speciality of this ceremony. A mix of coconut, jaggery, saffron, dry fruits and other exotic flavors, these dumplings will have you asking for more. “Modak” also has a certain symbolic value and is shown to be held by Ganesha in one of his four hands. The sweet represents rewards from spiritual pursuits. You will also find plate full of other sweets present at the feet of the God symbolising fulfilment.
All these delectable things are showered aplenty upon the devotees after they have completed their ritualistic offering to the deity. Garlands of marigold, fragrant flower petals, the holy durva grass and other items of significance are given to the God. Devotees also take turn to apply kumkum or vermilion and sandalwood paste on the body of the idol.
Idol Immersion in the Ganges:
The celebration comes to an end with the immersion of the idol in the holy Ganges. A long procession of devotees starts out from the school towards the river with a garlanded wagon where the idol of the Lord remains seated. The spirit of harmony and celebration runs high in this procession. As a singing-dancing mass of worshippers from the school rallies towards the auspicious Ram Jhula Ghat, more and more people join in. Forgetting all their differences the party unites in chanting the name of the Lord and spreads love by putting colour on each other.
The participants in the Ganesh Chaturthi ceremony are believed to have the blessings of the Lord forever!