he will save others heads is my question?….Happy Ganpathi day to morons!”….“Can someone tell me if
today is the day Ganesha was originally born or is it the day his dad cut his
head off?”…..“love to know from devotees a list of what obstacles he removed” ……”All tweets I put on Ganesha….unintended to hurt anyone’s sentiments…but if they did I sincerely apologize”….
Best wishes on Ganesha Chaturthi to all believers and fans. We have to admit, we do think of Ganesha as a cutie pie. Also he is mama’s golden boy and you know that no one crosses his mom and lives to tell about it (ask the demon Mahisha-Asura).
Incidentally this reminds us of the Tamizh commandment: kakaikku than konju pon konju….literally my crow is a golden crow.…figuratively, the love a mother feels for her child who is not blessed with the best of appearances…
BTW if you are curious to know how left-liberals think about Ganesha just follow Ram Gopal Varma on Twitter. RGV is originally from Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh and he is a super-hit director in both the Hindi and Telugu film world. His top movie is Satya (we also rate Rangeela), which Danny Boyle has claimed as an inspiration for Slumdog Millionaire (that must be a first…a western director…for real or for show….claims to being inspired by Bollywood).
In an ideal world, we would be most happy if the liberals established a hegemony in which we could crack jokes (even mean jokes) about religion and the religious…all of them. The sheer number of ridiculous religious leaders in India (and in the wider world) presents endless opportunities for (black) comedy. But we would propose to do it in a fair-minded and even-handed manner, or we are in danger of looking ridiculous ourselves. RGV we are sure, thinks twice about breaching some boundaries than others. Why is that?
Now, we should be clear that RGV is entitled to his views and opinions, but we fail to see what good comes out of this tamasha. From a political standpoint he is acting like a recruiting agent for the BJP.
Poking the crocodile is a lot of fun…sure, but then why crawl back with the apologies? Be a big boy and dish it out and be prepared to accept the consequences…in the extreme case be prepared to go to jail and start a new life-edition as a free speech martyr (we fully support him in that battle).
RGV considers himself as a man on a mission…to remove the cobwebs of superstition from the minds of deluded people. This is a fine and honest goal. Thomas Jefferson was also a man on a mission and he said that the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. RGV should have boldly stood up for (all) free speech and the free-flowing blood would have helped the tiny sapling to grow into a massive banyan tree.
We did like some of the non-inflamed responses, especially the one by “Subodh” who made a sporting attempt to respond to Shri RGV (questions marked below in bold and in red).
No religion has a god as child-friendly as Lord Ganesha. Animal heads on
divine beings is not quite unknown in other religions. The Egyptians
had several but let’s face it when it comes to terms of endearment,
jackals and falcons just cannot compare to an elephant.
It was a particular elephant’s bad luck but Hinduism’s good fortune,
that when Lord Shiva went looking for a head to replace the human one he
had lopped off, he came across an elephant, some say Indra’s mount
Airavata and not an annoying crow or a fearsome tiger. That would have
given our Ganesha a very different temperament.
But with his elephant head, Ganesha becomes the most genial of all gods
especially for a young child. The broken tusk makes him vulnerable. The
plump belly makes him comforting. He is virtuous as gods are supposed to
be but exudes a more approachable friendliness.
Though Hindu children
routinely and religiously pray to Saraswati for a little help during
examinations, no one would make a children’s film called My Friend
Saraswati. But it makes perfect sense for a lonely boy neglected by his
parents to find a buddy and fairy godfather rolled into one in the
elephant-headed god in My Friend Ganesha.
Ganesha isn’t just friendly. He also has a certain kind of smart that a kid can instantly relate to.
Take that story of Ganesha and Kartikeya and their great race to
circumnavigate the world. While Kartikeya huffed and puffed and set off
at great speed to go around the world, Ganesha just sat his parents down
and went around them. It was so incredible to read it on the colorful
pages of Amar Chitra Katha and know that the handsome, super-athletic
school jock didn’t always have to win the race.
Without being in the least bit preachy, it also told us not to
underestimate the kid who looked a little odd, the class misfit, the one
the other children might laugh at. We could instantly relate to it
because it was a story about sibling rivalry but one that thankfully did
not end in the bloody trauma of Cain and Abel. But most reassuringly,
it reiterated splendidly what as children we intuitively grasped – our
parents are the centre of our worlds. (Of course perhaps that’s also why
parents never tire of telling that story to their children.)
As a child there were things that mystified me about Ganesh. How did
someone of his girth ride a mouse? Why did an elephant’s head make the
rest of him so roly-poly? In the Bengali iconography during Durga Puja
he came with a kola-bou, a banana tree draped in a white sari with a red
border. Though scholars have argued whether the kola-bou was his bride
or a representation of the Mother Goddess herself, as a child I was
always worried the elephant-headed god might snack on his banana-plant
bride in an incautious moment.
Amar Chitra Katha had no answers to these conundrums and Devdutt
Pattanaik had not yet written his 99 Thoughts on Ganesha. The story of
his creation itself, I discovered later, had been sanitized and
Parvati creates Ganesha as her little gatekeeper out of the
rubbings of turmeric paste she has anointed herself with. He is
Vinayaka, the son born without the help of a husband. When Shiva lops
his head off for the effrontery of denying him entrance, Parvati is
Lakshmi Chaudhry recalled her daughter coming back from school and
telling her a more “family-friendly” version of that story.
“Parvati felt so sad when Shiva killed her little boy, she
started crying,” she said, explaining how Shiva replaced his head to
soothe his distraught wife. This was definitely not my grandmother’s
My daughter’s very progressive pre-school had sanitised
the myth to fit the portrait of a happy modern nuclear family. Don’t
worry, good daddies comfort sad mommies, and make it all okay. “No,
baby, Parvati was so angry that she vowed to destroy the entire
universe,” I corrected her, “The gods were so terrified that they ran to
Shiva and begged him to bring the boy back to life.” The Parvati I grew
up with was not a heart-broken waif, but powerful and feared goddess
whose wrath had to be appeased in order to save all creation.
That says more about our discomfort with powerful females than anything
about Ganesha. But the sweetness of the teary Parvati also makes it a
better bedtime story and gives Ganesha an extra dose of cuddliness.
Ironically the very qualities that have made him both beloved and
lovable have also been his greatest handicap.
In Hinduism he might be the Remover of Obstacles but outside the faith
he has become more cute and less god. In a world of animated films where
animals routinely talk in human voices, Ganesha, to much of the world,
belongs to a different pantheon – more Disney than God.
But unlike a
Disney character he is in the public domain – free to be emblazoned on
t-shirts, keychains, lunchboxes. And unfortunately he also ends up on
things he should never be. American Eagle put him on slippers. Sittin’
Pretty put him on toilet seats. Café Press put Ganesha and other gods on
thongs and $79 yoga mats.
Bollywood-themed parties in the West put up
statues of Ganesha and Buddha for that exotic touch while belly-dancers
gyrate and the bartender mixes cocktails. A party organizer in San
Francisco once said she would try and educate her clients about the
significance of religious symbols and put up signage explaining them but
she was not sure that anyone cared after the “third shot of tequila”.
Were the companies intending to disrespect Hinduism? Probably not.
Ganesh to them was just a cool iconic image. But the danger of cool is
then even a God becomes a commodity to be bought and sold. The god who
removes obstacles seems helpless when the juggernaut of popular culture
turns him into a potbellied party prop.
reassuringly that though he’s been turned into celluloid cartoons and
plastic China-made dashboard displays, “Ganesha does not mind, so long
as we appreciate the realm of his mother, and aspire for the realm of
his father.” Perhaps that’s true. But still one should think long and
hard before annoying any god especially one with the memory of an