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Malpractices during Shree Ganesh Chaturthi festival - India


1. History of the public celebration of Shree Ganēsh Chaturthī

In 1894, the great Indian freedom fighter, Lokmanya Tilak himself placed an idol of Shree Ganesh in Vinchurkar Wada, Maharashtra, India and began this practice. 

2. Lokmanya Tilak's idea behind starting the public celebration of Shree Ganesh Chaturthi

Prior to starting this public celebration the social scenario of the Hindus was not stable. Hindus were not very keen on practicing their religion. They were disunited. Indians were cowed down by the supremacy of Westerners, especially the British colonialists. The natural prowess of the Indians was suppressed by this state of affairs. 
Observing this, Lokmanya Tilak took the initiative of starting a public celebration of the festival, keeping in mind the below goals: 

  • To create awareness among Hindus about religion through programs organised during the public celebration of Shree Ganesh Chaturthi.

  • To nullify the feelings of animosity in society, among Hindus.

  • To make people aware of their rights and duties.

  • To rejuvenate good (sāttvik) religious customs.

  • To commence public campaigns or drives essential in those times.

  • To activate the energies present naturally in society and those generated traditionally.

A lack of understanding of the spiritual significance of the festival, has led to a lack of faith and devotion, in performing the celebrations. One obtains the maximum benefit from a ritual if it is performed with faith and intense devotion. One can perform rituals with most faith when one understands the science behind the rituals and performs them in accordance with spiritual principles. Otherwise, one forgots the invaluable spiritual benefits, like the indescribable experience of the Deity's (Shree Ganesh's) presence, inner peace (Shānti), Bliss (Ānand), etc. from the celebration. 

3. Current state of Shree Ganesh Chaturthi public celebrations outside India

  • Hindus outside India tend to view public celebrations of Hindu festivals like Shree Ganesh ChaturthiNavarātriDiwāli , etc., more as cultural/social events than religious ones. It is seen as an opportunity to getting in touch with the local Indian community, to dress in Indian garments and jewellery that one does not get to use frequently, watch some Indian films or locally produced cultural programs, etc. It is an effort to re-live the social customs from "back home."

  • Neither the attendees nor the organisers are truly aware of the spiritual significance of the festival; hence, no spiritual benefit is attained from it. The rituals do not begin on time, loud music is played and the attendees are found talking about their worldly achievements. Instead, they should be focused on deriving spiritual benefit through service unto God replete with spiritual emotion (sēvā-bhāv), reciting Shree Ganesh hymns, chanting mentally and trying to feel Shree Ganesh's presence in a sattvik, tranquil atmosphere.

  • Children are found playing in front of the idol, sometimes even running around the hall with their shoes on. There is no awareness that the idol can be activated with the actual presence of Shree Ganesh if we treat it reverentially and behave in a devotional manner during the function.

  • Cultural programs of song and dance, instead of religious discourses, are arranged. Since the science behind the rituals is not imparted, attendees, especially children, do not participate in it whole-heartedly and end up feeling alienated towards the religion.

A ritual is usually done to invoke that Deity's presence at the location of the celebration, but if a non-religious and social atmosphere prevails during the ritual, naturally the Deity, will not manifest there. Thus we hardly derive any spiritual benefit of that Deity's presence during the celebration; despite organising it and participating in it with much effort, expense and time taken from our busy schedules.

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