Ganesha – the Giver

||Om hrim vighneshwaraaya namaha||

Ganesha at the temple altar of Ramakrishna Centre of SA, Durban
Ganesha at the temple altar of Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa, Durban

Today we observe Sri Ganesh Chaturthi. The wonderful Bengali song, “Giri Ganesha aamaar shubhokaari” ends with this line “Suresha kumaar Ganesha aamaar | taader naa dekhile jhore noyona baari ” is being sung in the beginning of Durga Puja. “Ganesha be my auspicious. Ganesha is mine, Kartik, the son of Shiva is mine; If I dont see them, tears flow from my eyes.”

The day started with a special puja to Sri Ganesh in our temple. Devotees, by turn perform japa of the above-quoted mantra from 6 am to 6 pm on a relay manner.  After the Puja, my mind started munching albeit nostalgically the childhood days when we would bring the image of Ganesh from the market the earlier evening. Oh! What an enthusiasm in holding Him, as Ganesh, in that small idol, appearing so cute and everyone in the family vie for each other in having Him in their hands.

Sweet Kozhuk kattai
Sweet Kozhuk kattai

We, as children would eagerly await the completion of puja so that we are served with tasty modakam, in Tamil, Kozhuk kattai stuffed with purnam. There used to be two varieties one sweet and the other savoury (ellu and usili ). After leaving Madras in 1970, I have not had the taste of it as I went on moving in North and Eastern India. And now in South Africa, Tamil devotees have not even heard of this term, not to speak of its preparation!

In Ranchi where I was stayput for long 12 years (a yuga, in local parlance), Ganesh Chaturthi was uneventful. However, I used to relish the news of the Puja getting extremely popular all over India in the last two decades and I remember how a Maharashtrian family once invited me for lunch on the Puja day and to our hearts’ content, besides the sumptuous meals, we discussed the importance of Ganesh Puja and how the veteran freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak began. 

This happened in Ranchi. On one Ganesh chaturthi day during the noon break, I went strolling towards our school called ‘Vivekananda Vidyalaya’. The school was in recess and I found groups of pupils sitting together and enjoying their tiffin. I came near to one group of girls, studying in class IV. Among them one girl, a poor Munda Tribal, was not eating anything though the tiffin box was lying in front of her. Naturally my curiosity was aroused and I enquired her why she had not been eating while all others students were taking their tiffins. 

She kept mum as these tribal girls do not speak out immediately. One trait I noticed with them was that to get an answer one had to repeat the question while with the non-tribals, you just ask once and you get ten answers! The tribals by nature are very timid. 

I enquired whether somebody – one of the bullies – has eaten away her food. She nodded her head briskly to indicate that no such thing has happened. Then, what was the matter, why she was not eating, I persisted.

She stood up shyly and said that she herself had given to one of her friends. Why, I demanded to know, stating that how in the early morning, her mother had prepared so lovingly a tiffin for her and by giving away that to someone, would it not have hurt her mother’s feelings?

How foolish I was!

Sri Ganesha, in all His grace, wanted to give me the wisdom. 

The child now spoke with determination: “Maharaj, my friend had not eaten anything in the morning before coming to school. Her mother is sick and her dad went out for work. But, I did have something to eat. So, I gave her my noon lunch so that at least my friend does no go empty stomach.”

It was hard for me to control my tears. That small girl has such a vast heart! How many of us can think of ‘others’, denying the comfort to ourselves? Did she not go out of her little ‘being’ and spread out to reach for her friend? If this is not Vedanta in practice, then what?

May Sri Ganesha give us all the ‘feeling’ for others!

Ethics always says, “Not I, but thou.” Its motto is, “Not self, but non-self.” The vain ideas of individualism, to which man clings when he is trying to find that Infinite Power or that Infinite Pleasure through the senses, have to be given up–say the laws of ethics. You have to put yourself last, and others before you. The senses say, “Myself first.” Ethics says, “I must hold myself last.” Thus, all codes of ethics are based upon this renunciation; destruction, not construction, of the individual on the material plane.

Swami Vivekananda

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13 thoughts on “Ganesha – the Giver

  1. Respected Maharaj
    Jai Thakur
    Its indeed a nice story, we have lot to learn from that young girl. I was deeply moved with the story and I expect that like me all the devotees will learn the moral lesson behind this story.
    Maharaj you were there in TB Sanatorium at Ranchi. I hope you know Dr.A. Ghosh. He is like my Grandpa. I have been to Mission, its one of the best place with sceneic beauty. I am from Bokaro Steel City.
    Do keep posting articles Maharaj as we learn a lot from you.
    Regards to you
    Arnab Lahiri


  2. My very Rev Maharaj,
    Since yesterday (2/9/08) I was so much drawn to our Khar Ashrama because I vividly remembered the wonderful Ganesh Puja performed there, like Durga Puja. As I was contemplating on the past, I was uplifted to a different level. In Bengal Ganesh Puja takes place on First Baishak (New year day)in most households, shops and business premises.
    Then Maharaj, reading your blog, I could not control my feelings, I wish I was there with the devotees in Durban. Your story of the little tribal girl who gave her food to her friend made me wonder how simple, honest & pure they are!
    Hiru Mukherjee, UK


  3. Pranams Revered Maharaj!
    Om Namo Narayanaya!
    Yet again Maharaj has vividly brought about the celebration of another auspicious and glorius festival of Ganesh Chaturthi!! These Auspicious Days are awaited with much enthusiusm! The constant recitation of Om Hreem Vigneshwaaraya Namah! brings about Great Peace and Calmness of the mind. It was a great joy to read this article. Is it possible for Maharaj to post the recipe for the Modakam, both the sweet and the savoury type.
    Pietermaritzburg, SA

    Om! Avithaa,
    Thanks for your comment and for the enquiry about the recipe. I found here step by step instruction.
    Try your luck! May Sri Ganesha be propitious in your attempt!
    Swami Vimokshananda


  4. Adarneeya Maharajji,
    Saadar Pranaams.
    As one other Devotee told me, “Bharatji, you have made me addicted to Swami Vimokshanandaji’s Blog….” Yes We are all becoming addicted to your blog.
    In this regard I remember reading in “HOW TO LIVE WITH GOD”…One Western Devotee told to Swami Chetananandaji regarding GOSPEL OF SRI RAMAKRISHNA, “Swamiji, the only problem with Gospel is that it has an ENDING…”
    In like manner the only problem with your Blog is “IT HAS LONG INERVALS/GAPS… :( :(
    I take this opportunity to post this link in our DEVOTEES OF HOLY TRIO…


  5. Revered Maharaj Ji,

    What more to say! You please keep up posting like this. It’s all by Lord’s wish that we are working (all by His mere wish). When Lord Himself let us know, we come to know. Likewise, when Lord Himself wants to illumine our hearts, He does so through His chosen icon (in this case the little girl, who is none but Mother Earth).

    It takes immense good luck to hear about God
    To see Him is better
    And even to converse with Him like friends, one of our own is indeed the best.

    Jai Sri Thakur! Jai Sri Maa! Jai Swamiji!

    With Best Regards,
    Subhadip (Noida), Uttar Pradesh,


  6. Respected Maharaj:

    Please accept my Pranam.

    I happened to read story of Tribal girl given in your experiences. An inspiring story told with lots of feelings. May we all find the ways to reach out beyond ourselves and experience living out of our own body and the small / narrow worlds that we have created around us.

    I stay in Delhi but presently visiting Trivandrum on official work. It is a state (kerala) which does not rejoice in change. But it is interesting to see that people of Kerala have started celebrating Vinayaka Chaturthi. I did get to see Modaks in one of the sweet shop. Lord Ganesha is spreading his charm all over.

    I liked Ganesha embracing linga. Will you have more pictures of this? Please send to me, if possible.

    Jai Maa



  7. Om Namo Narayanaya!
    Just recently subscribed to your blog.
    Your articles are extremely interesting. Many will benifit from it in South Africa, will also appreciate some articles for the youth of today.
    Please accept our pranams from
    Anoop & Family


  8. Om Namo Narayanaya!
    Revered Swamijee

    It is with utmost interest that I read Swamijees’s wonderful articles. I am deeply thankful to Swamijee for sharing these most interesting incidents. With the stress of studying and great concern about our future, these posts bring hope and solace in these trying times. There are no words to describe my gratitude to our revered Swamijee. Many of my friends at Wits University are also showing interest in Swamijee’s blog. I hope to meet Swamijee at the Upcoming Vedanta Retreat at Johannesburg.

    Pranam Partab
    Wits University


  9. Om Namonarayanaya!
    Prostrations to Revered Maharaj!

    I have being reading the blog very frequently and find it most interesting and spiritually enriching. Reading the articles is like listening to maharaj speak to us in person. Thank you maharaj for blessing us recently with maharaj’s visit. We are eagerly awaiting the next visit that is during navarathri. i hope it is not rude to question maharaj but maharaj mentioned in your speech in Glencoe that there were 8 salient points but only mentioned 6. Could maharaj pls let me know the other two. Thanking maharaj most sincerely,

    Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

    Dear Meena
    Aum Namo Narayanaya!
    Indeed a nice query! I understand how keenly you followed the discussion that was held at Hinduism Conference, Glencoe. Thanks!

    Why I could not complete the 7th and 8th points was my realising that time was running out. You might have known that I was given 30 mts and when I came to the 6th point I was already run over by 10 mts. If I proceed, I felt that I would be only intruding into others’ time which cannot be justified in a Conference. It was not a discourse venue of an ashram where a little extension of time may not matter much. Hope you appreciate this.

    Now, the 7th point : Vandana – salutation

    You know there are various methods in which we greet each other and the methods actually vary with the status of the persons whome we salute. Joining the palms is a normal posture. Then kneeling down or bending hip etc. While standing before God in any form whether a photo or statue, one should do the ‘salutation’ by doing ‘sashtanga pranam’. Sashtanga means sashta + anga ( eight parts).
    The individual prostrates before the deity or the symbol in which he is invoking the divine. This prostration is done with all the major eight limbs touching the ground. The major eight limbs are the forehead, the mouth, the hands, the chest, the abdomen, the thighs, the feet and the mind.
    You know how our dear Master used to bow down even to visitors at Dakshineshwar. This procedure of vandana gives a spiritual direction to our mind that God exists everywhere and each individual is divine so everyone should be given due dignity.

    The next item 8th : Atma-nivedana self-surrender
    This need not be explained much as you know well how surrender of one’s actions and one’s will at the feet of the Lord removes all kinds of worries. Sri Ramakrishna never prided himself with all that he obtained. He would think and act according to the Will of Mother Kali.

    Hope this is suffice. With prayers
    Swami Vimokshananda


  10. Revered Maharaj

    Aum Namo Narayanaya

    Ganesh Chaturti is the largest hindu festival in Goa. It was great. We even had college holidays. I once again visited the Prabujis in Margao. It was a beautiful family event and I ate lunch with them after Aarti. The Ganesh Festival is even bigger than Diwali. There were Large Statues and fireworks, and Rishal and I visited temples as well. There is so much Prasadh in Goa. I had laddus as well. The Ganesh Festival was a great experience.

    Jai Sri Ramakrishna


  11. Respected Maharaj
    Today I read the response that you have written in, against a query asked by one of the devotee named Ms Meena.
    You have mentioned two points in response to her query. Maharaj I will be pleased if you kindly share the other 6 points. I am asking this because since the way you mentioned the two points is awesome and as a result it has ignited curiosity in my mind regarding the other six.
    I know Maharaj that for this you need to type a lot but still its a humble request from one your devotee.
    Thanking you in anticipation.
    Arnab Lahiri

    Dear Arnab
    Jai Sri Thakur!
    Thanks for your lively interest on the topic. I have published under that slide show post a short report on the Hinduism Conference sent by a student-devotee Reantha Pillay. She has recounted the other 6 points and also the gist from Talks from other learned panel of speakers.
    I hope this helps you.
    With love
    Swami Vimokshananda

    Respected Maharaj
    Thanks a lot for sharing me the link. I read the other six there and it is indeed a nice article. Thanks once again for the effort that you are putting to circulate the words of Thakur, Ma and Swami jee which is helping a lot to devotees like me.
    Please keep writing Maharaj, we really enjoy reading your articles, experiences and practical teachings.
    Take care.
    Arnab Lahiri


  12. Om namo narayanaya Swamiji !

    Thank you for blessing us with your presence during our navarathri puja.

    Subscribing to your blog has brought spiritual enlightenment into my life. I have been reading your blog for a long time now but I have always been afraid to respond.

    Thank you for explaining the importance of Pitar Paksh and Navarathri. I did not know that Mother Durga had four children.

    We are so thankful to Master for sending you to South Africa.

    Natasha (Newcastle)
    S A


  13. Vanakam Swamiji
    Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam!
    I truly enjoy each and one of the article in this blog. My eyes never stay dry, reading the events in Swamiji’s life.
    Anbe Sivam.
    Sankri, Malaysia


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