A do it yourself Ganesh puja

Paucity of pandits makes Mumbaikars learn how to perform the rituals themselves

With Ganesh Chaturthi round the corner, September 17 to be precise, devotees in the city are in preparation mode to welcome Mumbai’s elephant God.

Pandit Haresh Shukla teaches people how to perform a Ganpati puja. Pics/Sharad Vegda
Pandit Haresh Shukla teaches people how to perform a Ganpati puja. Pics/Sharad Vegda

There is a scarcity of pandits during the Ganesh festival because so many people get the idol home. K J Somaiya Bharatiya Sanskriti Peetham has designed a special Ganesh puja course. In a workshop conducted recently, participants learnt to conduct Ganesha puja at their home without the help of a pandit.

Dr Kala Acharya (l) performs the aarti as participants join Pandit Shukla in the Ganesh mantras
Dr Kala Acharya (l) performs the aarti as participants join Pandit Shukla in the Ganesh mantras

Dr Kala Acharya, director, Bharatiya Sanskriti Peetham at K J Somaiya, Vidyavihar says, “Our institute has been working on the worship of various Indian Gods and we decided to share the knowledge of Ganpati with others. That is why we have organised this workshop to help people understand the prayers and rituals better.”

Knowledge
Dr Lalita Namjoshi, assistant director of Bharatiya Sanskriti Peetham says, “Religion dominates in India. People do not know the meaning of complicated religious practices. We are aiming to simplify it. The prayers and their meanings, the significance of every item used in the puja and the iconography of Ganpati is what we explain to people.”

Acharya adds, “A priest being a must for a Ganpati installation has not been said in the Hindu religious texts. Even a common person can do a puja. But people can’t be priest and hosts at the same time since there are many guests who visit when the idol comes home. People feel a priest knows the sacred prayers better by heart and is more suited.”

“Women can also install an idol. The prayers are in Sanskrit and can be learnt in one month, if one practices even for an hour daily. Prior knowledge of Sanskrit is not a must. Just the willingness to learn is needed,” says Namjoshi.

Pandit Haresh Shukla who was teaching the participants how to perform a puja says, “The thirst for knowledge exists in people and often they question me when I perform pujas. I like answering them.”

Worship
About 20 people were present at the workshop with women outnumbering the men, when this reporter attended. Shukla began by explaining what a Ganpati puja entailed.

He said, “Everything is available on the computer, but pandits are still sought after for pujas. But, now people want pandits who will do rituals fast. True worship is meaningful where the devotees understand every aspect. People want everything fast, but we need to slow down. Ask me questions as and when you like, I am happy to explain the details.”

Learners watched avidly learning the mantras, chants and various steps of the puja from Shukla. Puja was followed by in-depth explanation of Lord Ganesh’s iconography by Acharya. She said, “The iconography was made so that by using the peculiar characteristics; craftsmen can make the idol.

The salutations and names of Ganpati come from the iconography.” Archarya explained how Ganesh worship came about, the Vedas, writings about Ganpati, the depictions and other aspects. Namjoshi went on to add about the prayers and their meaning from Sanskrit to English. The legend of Ganesh was explained by Shukla in detail.

Prachi Pathak, faculty member of Bharatiya Sanskriti Peetham explained the various elements used in the puja and their significance via a power point presentation. The workshop ended with participants getting knowledge about Ganesh Chaturthi as well as visarjan puja details.

Contentment
Mahesh Dalwani, a senior citizen who attended the workshop says, “I am a huge Ganesh worshipper. I go to Siddhivinayak every Tuesday. When I heard of this workshop, I knew I must come. I was able to understand more about my favourite God. I can perform the puja myself, which will make me better involved in the worship.”

Somaiya faculty member Rupali Paranjpe says, “I adjusted my day so I could attend the workshop. I now know the meaning and when my family priest does the rituals I will be better prepared.”

Her colleague Archana Raje adds, “I am very interested in Ganesh puja. After this workshop, the rituals will not be mechanical but full of deep reverence for me. I will share this knowledge with my family so we will be more involved.”

The Somaiya Bharatiya Sanskriti Peetham plans a few more workshops like this before the festival. “Many people are unable to make it on a working day and during working hours. We are planning better timings and days for the future workshops. We are also open to helping people who have any doubts about Ganpati puja,” ends Acharya.

Ganesh iconography
>> Idols can have three to five heads, four hands and three eyes.
>> The idol has four hands with a ladoo or modak and a lotus in his right hands.
>> The left hands have an axe and one of his broken tusks.
>> The idol has red eyes, conical ears, large belly and a zinc oxide complexion.
>> A mouse, lion, peacock or snake can be his vehicle.
>> The idol can wear a plain sacred thread, waist band of jewels or a snake belt.

Ganesh puja rituals
>> The priest with the chanting of mantras invokes the presence of Ganesha using the statue as a channel, or body for energy. This ritual is Pranapratishhtha. 
>> After this, the ritual called Shhodashopachara (16 ways of paying tribute) follows. 
>> Coconut, jaggery, modaks, durva (trefoil) blades of grass and red flowers are offered. 
>> The statue is anointed with red unguent, typically made of kumkum and sandalwood paste. 
>> Throughout the ceremony, Vedic hymns from the Rigveda, the Ganapati Atharva Shirsha Upanishad, and the Ganesha stotra from the Narada Purana are chanted. 
>> There are certain methods on how to celebrate the festival including how to perform the Ganpati Staphna (Idol Installation), perform the Ganesh Visarjan (Immersion) and other rituals and traditions.

K J Somaiya Bharatiya Sanskriti Peetham details

Address: Third floor, SIMSR building, Somaiya Campus, Vidyavihar.
Telephone: 21027265/21020306
Email: director.peetham@somaiya.edu/kala.acharya@somaiya.edu

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