Vinayaka Chaviti-The healthy way of celebration

Vinayaka Chaviti is one of the most noted festivals that people look forward to the entire year. Everyone knows the regular Ganesh Chaturthi that we celebrate, but does the festival have a better significance than just poojas, dancing and throwing colors? Through this article, I will explain the spiritual and environmental significance of Ganesh Chathurthi.

Every issue in Indian religion a.k.a Sanathana Dharma has to be understood from three perspectives: 'Adhibhoutika'(physical level), 'Adidyvika'(environmental level, and 'Adhiaatmika' (spiritual level). Festivals are no exception to this. Their performance involves a series of actions which will have a direct effect in physical well-being, environmental and spiritual well being whether we understand it or not. Many people fail to explain these 3 levels of analysis of festivals celebration because a systematic learning is lost over quite some time.

At a spiritual level:

The celebration of the festival is quite well noted and explained. The celebration of Vinayaka Chaviti starts with a head bath with castor oil, wearing new clothes, decorating the house entrances with mango-leaves/banana trees, bringing the image of Vinayaka-(most preferably made with clay) along with 21 medicinal plant leaves and the installation of the deity and performance of the pooja. Along with that , reading of the vratha-katha-the beginning of Vinayaka and how he attained the primary God for 'no obstacles' and his respect towards the parents which is evident from the competition that he wins form Karathikeya in encircling the universe thrice. Also, the curse of the quarter moon who laughed at Vinayaka and the subsequent redemption granted to the moon, the Lord Krishna story of getting blamed for the stealing 'samanthkamani' for looking at the quarter moon without reading the Vinayaka katha is done in every household of India and in many eastern countries like Bali, Java, etc.
In the evening, after a sumptuous meal, everyone goes around to all relatives and acquaintances houses to look at the pooja done at their houses and do as many sit ups. Depending on the time availability the worship of the installed deity continues for either 3,5,7, or 9 days , and on the 9th day the lord is returned back to the nearest water body.

The spiritual explanation of the festival is:

The Gajasura story and Ganesh acquiring the elephants head indicates that all the species in the world from demon to animal kingdom to human are all part of the same creation and have their particular roles to perform and these roles have to be respected.

The second spiritual significance is:

that every being that is born has to go back to where it came from, and hence the idea of bringing a Ganesha and submerging Him in the water again completes the life-cycle.

The physical/environmental significance is:

This festival signifies the end of the monsoon season in tropical countries, which means that the water-bodies will be filed with fresh rain water.
In order to facilitate the flow of water, the clay has to be drudged. This is what is done when everybody is asked to go and bring clay for the making of Ganesha's, which means that the entire communities along the side of the rivers are participating in the drudging at their own capacity.

Post-monsoon the dampness in the atmosphere will provide a breeding ground for bacteria, fungi, etc. both at community and house-hold level. Bringing all 21 medicinal plants which have significance in many medicinal preparations, are highly anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal which prevents such breeding. Along with that we also use kumkum and turmeric which is also highly anti-viral and anti-bacterial and fungicidal.

Sending Ganesha back with these particular medicinal plants cleanses the water bodies also, there-by refreshing the water-bodies back with its richness. It can be termed as a community cleaning procedure.
We have already polluted many water bodies by discarding industrial/human wastes, and we still are adding to all of that using POP(plaster of Paris) Ganeshas for the look and entertainment of it rather than for its actual meaning. This POP has hardened on the beds of water-bodies causing massive flooding and damage to which even after spending crores every year, has led to no avail.

So let's bring about a change and go back to the original spirit of the festival not just for us but for the environment as well.

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