Angarak Ganesh Sankashta Chaturti

Lord Ganesh is my favourite God, my Ishtadev and I love going to his temples to seek his blessings. My favourite Ganesh temple is the Siddhi Vinayak temple in Mumbai. When I first started work, the temple was an eight to ten-minute walking distance from the office. So every Tuesday, before I went to work, I would leave home early, and go to the temple to pay my respects to the Lord before going to work. Since Tuesdays are considered to be very special to Lord Ganesh, especially in Maharashtra and so there would be a line to enter the temple. It would usually take about an hour to line up and take the darshan, so I was never too worried about going in to the office late.

But one year, my mother also wanted to go to the temple on the occasion of Angarak Ganesh Sankashti and so we decided to leave about two hours earlier. I reasoned that it usually took me an hour and since it was the Angarak Sankashti, it will take double that time and so we left home around 6 am. When we reached the temple, nay, even before we reached the temple, we saw the huge line snaking out and into the road behind the temple. We got into the line and stood and stood and stood. We stood in line for almost six hours before we finally managed to see the Lord. I was super late for work and my mum had to still go home and make lunch. But we managed it that day and it was the first and last time I stood in a line that long to see the Lord.

So what makes this day so special that people spend hours waiting in line just for a glimpse of the Lord’s visage? The Angarika Chaturthi is a Sankashti Chaturthi falling on Tuesday and is considered highly auspicious among all Sankashti Chaturthi days. Sankashti Chaturthi, also known as Sankatahara Chaturthi, is an auspicious day dedicated to Lord Ganesha. This day is celebrated in every lunar Hindu calendar month on the fourth day of the Krishna Paksha which is the dark lunar phase or the waning fortnight of the moon.

According to Hindu teachings, Angarak, the son of Mother Earth and Bharadwaj Rishi, was an accomplished rishi and a great devotee of Lord Ganesha. He worshipped Lord Ganesha and sought his blessings. On Magh Krishna Chaturthi which fell on a Tuesday, Lord Ganesha blessed him and asked him for a wish. Angarak expressed that his only wish was to be associated with Lord Ganesha’s name forever. The Lord granted his wish and proclaimed that whoever worships Lord Ganesha on Angarika Chaturthi will be granted all that he or she prays for. From that day onwards, Magh Krishna Chaturthi came to be known as Angarak Chaturthi. Angarak in Sanskrit means red like burning coal embers and is also so known because Tuesdays are governed by the planet Mars or Mangal in Hinduism. Tomorrow is also an Angarak Sankhasthi Chaturthi and is the second one this year, after the one on April 19.

Another story is that the planet Mars or Mangal performed intense austerities and pleased Lord Ganesha. A happy Ganpati gave the boon to the planet that whenever Chaturthi falls on Tuesday it will be known as Angaraki Chaturthi. He also promised Mangal that those performing pujas on the day will have their wishes fulfilled. Mars who had got a bad reputation for creating trouble in people’s horoscopes was happy with the blessings.

On the day of Angarika Sankashti Chaturthi, devotees observe a strict fast from morning till evening. They break the fast at night after having a darshan or the auspicious sighting of the moon, preceded by prayers and a pooja for Lord Ganesha. The Angarika Chaturthi devotees believe their wishes will be fulfilled if they pray on this auspicious day. The fast of Sankashti Chaturthi is generally started from the day of Angarika Sankashti Chaturthi. Also, Angarika Sankashti means deliverance during troubled times, hence observing this fast is believed to reduce a person’s problems, as Lord Ganesha is the remover of all obstacles and the supreme Lord of intelligence. Before moonlight, the Ganapati Atharvashesha is recited to summon the blessings of Lord Ganesha.

The Brahmavaivarat Purana states that Lord Ganesha is a manifestation of the supreme consciousness and was destined to manifest as the remover of obstacles for men and gods, and he became the God of intellect and wisdom. According to Sage Vyasa, those performing puja, prayers, japa or chanting, and charity performed on this day will be blessed with peace and prosperity. They will never face any problems as the strength of the puja performed on this day is 10 million times stronger than those performed on ordinary days. Thus the benefits too are manifold. It is widely believed by Lord Ganesha devotees that observing the vrat or fast will bring material progress, happiness, and the fulfilment of desires. There is a huge rush to temples dedicated to Lord Ganesh on Angarak Ganesh Chaturthi, especially in Maharashtra. It is believed that those suffering Mangal dosh or blight of Mars in their Kundli or horoscope will get relief after offering prayers and charity on the day. Those who have financial problems will also find solutions to their issues and find relief from debt.

I used to fast for many years on Ganesh Sankhastha Chaturthi and used to break my fast only after praying to the moon and Lord Ganesha after moonrise, but after getting diagnosed with diabetes, I stopped my fasts. After this post, I am very tempted to start fasting again and will explore if this is feasible now.

Painting of Lord Ganesh from Bali at home

Ganpati Bappa Morya, Mangal Murthy Morya!

Conversations with God!

What is religion? According to Wikipedia:

Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and moral values.Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature.

I was born and raised as a Hindu, particularly a South Indian Iyer Brahmin. While we follow all the tenets of the Hindu religion, there are some which are uniquely ours. I’ll be writing more about these in subsequent posts, but while the overarching theme of this post is religion, it is more specifically about God and my relationship with Him.

Different people view religion is their own ways. For some, this may take form of praying religiously in front of the manifestation of their preferred religion, for others it may be something they view with suspicion and fear and shun it altogether.

Where I am concerned, I believe in the religion I was brought up in and within which I bring up my children. I believe everyone needs an emotional anchor with which to anchor their lives and religion, if handled correctly, can provide that. My relationship with my religion and the God who personifies it for me is very personal and intense. To me, it is not necessary to pray a certian number of times a day, go to the temple so many times a week, but not be a good person internally. I believe that what lies between you and your deity is personal and should remain so. I definitely pray and constantly think of him, but it is very personal.

Painting of Lord Ganesh from Bali at home

Many Hindus have something called an ishtadev which essentially means a favourite God or Deity. I do too and with my ishtadev, I have a one-on-one relationship. My ishtadev by the way is the Lord Ganesh. I have always been drawn to him since childhood and there is one particular temple in my hometown of Mumbai that I love going to. This is the Siddhivinayak Temple in Prabhadevi and never fail to go there each time I go back.

I look up to Lord Ganesh or Siddhivinayak as a friend. I pray to him many, many times a day and selfishly also ask him loads of things during the course of my day. If something is not going my way, I ask for his intervention and when things are working in my favour, I

Idol of Siddhivinayak at the Siddhivinayak Temple, Mumbai

do thank him. A case in point – last night we got home very late from the temple (details later) and I didn’t have a very good night. Today morning, when I got dropped off at my bus stop, I did mention to S that although I am sleepy, I know I won’t get place to sit in the bus. Then the bus that came my way was not the bus I usually take, it was an abbreviated service that I usually ignore since using that bus means changing to another bus later on. But this bus was fairly empty and I saw if I boarded it, I can get a seat, so I got in and slept till it was time to get off and change buses, which coincidently came within 3 minutes!

This is my relationship with my God, my friend. How about you? Do you believe in God, in a higher power? If yes, then how do you communicate with him/her?