India is very affluent when it comes to a variety of festivals. We have festivals reasons & seasons and more precisely I’d say for all deities. One of the very popular and widely celebrated is the Ganesha Festival. Ganesha festival is celebrated in Bhadarva month as per Hindu calendar, starting from 4th day of Bhadarva month and lasting for 10 consecutive days. It is believed lord Ganesha’s birthday.
This festival has an anecdote behind it, it is believed that once upon a time, Lord Shiva was in deep trance and goddess Parvati was feeling alone. She then created a child from the debris removed from her body and considered him as her son. While doing so she felt tired and went for a bath. While going for a bath, she instructed that child to guard the main entrance of her edifice and strictly instructed him that whosoever may come, don’t allow anybody to step inside as she would be bathing then.
As per the command, the child Ganesha stood in front of main entrance; meanwhile lord Shiva was done with his trance and came to see Parvati. There, he came across a boy at the entrance whom he has never seen before there. Child Ganesha condescendingly stopped lord Shiva and confronted him to fight with him if he wanted to get in. The angry lord Shiva cut the head of child Ganesha with Trishul. As soon as child Ganesha fell down on earth wit cut head, Parvati comes out and starts mourning. Here, Lord Shiva becomes speechless when he comes to know that child was his son. He then repented and sent his men in jungle and bring the head of first ever creature they encounter. They returned with head of elephant which was allied to the body of child Ganesha and he was resurrected. When Parvati mourned as a mother that her son is having face of an animal, then Lord Shiva consoled her and blessed that child with tremendous amount of wisdom, intelligence and ingenuity; not only this but also declared that since then he must be worshipped first in any of the rituals whatsoever and for whosoever other deities. So since then we were blessed with new god called – Lord Ganesha who is also known as Ganpati, Ekdant, vakratund, etc 108 names which all descried his various features and legends of his life.
Apart from if we see the historical and social significance; this festival was started by the freedom fighter Shri Bal Gangadhar Tilak during old days before freedom. The major purpose was then was to bring people on the common platform and be united to fight against the Britishers. After freedom, Maharashtra state became the hub of this festival majorly and was the best platform of brotherhood, equality and unity. During this festival there used to be so many socio-cultural activities where youth were getting opportunities to perform their talent and shine. It was the centre of people’s faith and trust on god. Devotees used to come and offer god their services and pray to clutch their grief, pain and problems.
But with the passage of time, slowly & gradually this festival started becoming commercialized and so many evils entered into entire system. The first evil was the break in unity. Ganesha festival’s USP used to be unity since British time, but slowly it vanished and so many different groups, entourages and troops came into exist. Second evil was being conceit & doing pageantry. Third evil was bullying of the so called groups for forceful public contribution from local residents & merchants to celebrate this festivals. Fourth evil was the cream crowd slowly being replaced by anti social elements. The holy Ganesha mandaps started becoming the centres of entertainments where indecent songs being played, people play carom & cards; they consume alcohol and sometimes fight also. Fifth evil was to go on streets and organize unnecessary big processions which can cause heavy noise pollution and inconvenience to pedestrians and transportation.
The phenomenon doesn’t stop here; this entire festival has become an industry of billions of rupees. The organizers establish the huge effigies of Lord Ganesha and then cover it with marvellous pavilions. They deliberately do this so that a passerby stop and enter the pavilion to see effigy of lord Ganesha. At places, they create artificial crowd and cause inconvenience and then ask for money to break the queue and go direct for the glance. Moreover the excessive decoration, the over needed lighting, the marvellous arrangements, the sale of commodities related to deity outside the pavilion, the parking charges for vehicles, etc requires a lot of money. We can say on an average one Ganesha pavilion may spend approx 2 to 10 lakhs of rupees in 10 days and there are approx 20,000 approx bigger and smaller pavilions in one city. If we consider only few big cities of Gujarat, Maharashtra, MP, etc states only, then the cumulative expense behind this festival is equivalent to a yearly budget of some small African country. The remaining states are not consideration in counting. So the amount goes in unbelievable giant numbers. The observable fact doesn’t end here; the huge Ganesha effigies are being immersed into rivers, sea or nearby ponds of city which causes acute water pollution as those effigies are made of POP and other toxic colours which again disrupt the food chain & balance of the nature.
And that is why everyone gets a chance to laugh at us and makes fun of us that how we have made our own religion a commercial matter. We should celebrate festivals but with a sense of responsibility and being rationale about our environment, our society, our religion and our country fellow that we don’t be a reason to harass other people in or other way.
Let’s make some resolutions to make this great festival an opportunity of devotion in true sense:
- Let’s bring Ganesha’s effigies as less as possible, ideally 1 between 3-4 localities.
- Let’s bring eco friendly Ganesha idols (made of soil and not POP) and arrange the alternative spot for immersion rather in natural source of water like river or pond.
- Organize the low profile pandals and utilize the surplus fund in social welfare activities like donating to orphanage, old age homes welfare of disabled & deprived children, donate for animal & veterinary trust, create some employment opportunities for job seekers, providing medical assistance to needy people, arrange blood donation camps, charity programmes, etc