To celebrate Ganesh Chathurthi, for the past 5 years, we have made a Ganesh from bread dough, baked it in the oven, and after 3 or 9 days taken Him to immersion in the nearby lake or river.
I am connected to this festival for many reasons, the closest to my heart being the symbolism of the event. I believe that the meaning behind the festival is a spiritual message, transcending any religious denomination- it is human spirituality.
To me, the lesson is what we take from the earth we have to give back as it was given to us and not to hurt the environment. Originally, in India, Ganesh was made from clay from the riverbed and then submersed back to where He came from. And, it was done in an earth friendly way- none of the plaster of paris molds, lead based paints or fancy decorations that can choke fish were used. Only earth based molds (clay) and paints (possibly herbal powders and flower dyes) and nature’s decorations being flowers and other beautiful natural items to decorate Ganesh. When put back into the water, these things will not hurt the environment.
To me, I take this one step further. How we treat our environment can translate into how we treat ourselves and fellow humans. For example, if we take from the earth to make a Ganesh and decorate him with non-biodegradable items, and put this back in the ocean or water body, it respects the earth, hence ourselves.
So, think about this and how you treat yourself and others. It’s easier to think of this in relation to how we treat others- we may take from others, even without our knowledge their time, energy, passion for life, material items etc. We may borrow or take away entirely any number of tangibles or intangibles, but how we replace or give back is very important. If we, for instance, ask for another’s time, but later don’t help when they ask or don’t step forward to help without being asked, we are not giving back. Not giving back is also harmful. This upsets the balance and also hurts the other person and hurts us personally in some way. There is a ripple effect. Just like if we put Ganesh back in the ocean with lead-based paints and ornaments, who or what will that hurt and how can it affect the whole system? It may seem it’s isolated, but there is a ripple effect- just like the waves created upon walking into the water to submerse Ganesha, the waves come back to the shore and affect somehow- do they bring the same clean water back, do they bring the garbage back, do they affect the fish that is eaten in a harmful way, or are they ingested by the fish, and bring them back to the shore dead?
In sum, Lord Ganesha reminds us that “We are all connected.” I believe there is a phrase in Sanskrit for this, if you know it, please e-mail it to me! Thank you.
Read a related post: Receive What You Give.
See photos of Ganesh Chathurthi Celebrations of Years Past.