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Report: Sri Ganesh Chaturthi 2023

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In respect of Sri Ganesha Chaturthi and the Ganesha Vrata, the Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda says in Hindu Gods and Goddesses, "Ganesha Chaturthi is one of the most popular of Hindu festivals. This is the birthday of Ganesha. It is the day most sacred to Lord Ganesha. It is observed on the fourth day of the bright fortnight of Bhadrapada throughout India. Clay figures of the Deity are made, and after being worshipped for two days, or in some cases ten days, are thrown into water.

"The yearly Ganesh Chaturthi Puja that is thus observed throughout India is the festival version of the Ganesh Vrata that has become enjoined as a compulsory observance, as a matter of tradition. Apart from this annual Puja, the Ganesh Vrata–also known by the name of Siddhi-Vinayaka Vratam – is done as a special Vrata for the attainment of some particular end in view, usually for clearing oneself of false and unjust accusations and charges, recovering lost objects, regaining lost status, and removal of obstacles in an enterprise. It is to be performed on the fourth day of the dark fortnight. It consists of elaborate worship of Lord Ganesha with Shodashopachara (a 16- step worship) and various offerings, after appropriate Sankalpa (desire).

"The divine sage Narada prescribed this Vrata to Sri Krishna who wished to wipe off the dishonour of the charge of stealing the Syamantaka Gem. Much later, Krishna instructed Yudhishthira to perform this Vrata at the time of the Mahabharata war. This renowned Vrata was effectively celebrated by the Devas to obtain Ambrosia on the eve of churning the ocean, by Damayanti to find her lost husband, by Lord Rama to get back Sita, by Indra to defeat Vritra Asura, by Bhagiratha to get down the celestial Ganges, by Draupadi and by Samba to get cured of incurable disease.

"He who performs this Puja with faith, devotion and concentration obtains all that he desires and attains the highest abode".

Divine Life Society of South Africa observed Sri Ganesha Chaturthi at Sivanandashram, Reservoir Hills, on Monday 18 September 2023, commencing with Ganga Arati at 5.30pm followed by Satsang. The Satsang programme comprised Kirtans, Bhajans and a reading entitled, "The Syamantaka Jewel" from the Srimad Bhagavata.

In Hindu Fasts and Festivals, Sri Swami Sivananda explains how it came about that Lord Ganesha cursed the moon. Having eaten a good number of sweet puddings He received on His birthday, He set out on His vehicle, the mouse. Having seen a snake, the mouse suddenly stumbled and Ganesha fell onto the ground. His stomach burst open and all the sweet puddings came out. Ganesha stuffed them back into His stomach, and catching hold of the snake, tied it around His belly. The moon, witnessing this, laughed mockingly. This annoyed Ganesha, who pulled out one of His tusks and hurled it at the moon, cursing that no one should look at the moon on the occasion of Sri Ganesha Chaturthi. If anyone did, then one would earn ill-repute or censure. If, however, someone inadvertently looked at the moon on this day, the only way one could find redemption would be by repeating or listening to the story, "Syamantaka's Jewel". The story from the Srimad Bhagavata, which was read at the Satsang, describes how Lord Krishna recovered the Syamantaka Jewel to allay false accusations against Him and married the daughters of Jambavan and Satrajit. By enacting the pastime involving the Syamantaka Jewel, the Lord demonstrated the futility of material wealth. Anyone who recites, hears or remembers it will drive away his own infamy and sins and attain peace.

On an esoteric level, this story teaches that one should live such that one honours God and Guru, and lives in the spirit of divinity and purity, without desecrating the sanctity of God, Guru, Dharma and religion.

Let us find comfort, assurance and spiritual solace in the Master's divine injunction which aptly sums up the essence of Sri Ganesha Chaturthi. He says, "May the blessings of Sri Ganesha be upon you all! May He remove all the obstacles that stand in your spiritual path and bestow on you both Bhakti and Mukti!"

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