Name: Ganesha/Vinayaka/Ganapati (don’t recall the rest)
Parents: Lord Shiva & Goddess Parvati
Residence: Kailas (unverified)
Email: None – (please get with it! Gmail is good)
Festival: Vinayaka Chavithi
In short, this is the Ganesha whose birthday we celebrated yesterday.
While the precise origins/cause/reasons of this festival are as yet unclear to me (more on that later), it definitely is one my favourite festivals. “Why?” you ask…for the same reason I don’t like most of the others. Food! (what were you expecting? some deep philosophical treatise?) Most Indian festivals usually demand lots of sweets, not this god, leastways not in my house. This is one occasion where I wholeheartedly & unabashedly dig in.
Another peculiarity about this festival in my house is that my dad gets to do it! And here you were thinking that festivals are a universal celebration of religious fervour. No sir. Not here. According to the in-house religious expert a.k.a my mother, the majority of festivals require only token participation from my dad, whereas even the faithless (my sister and I) have to fully participate at the risk of hell fire and brimstone on earth. C’est la vie.
At least this festival has some good stories which I can poke holes in. I’m assuming that most of you would know them, if not you can always read up. Why in the name of Kailas does a goddess need a watchman? Having cut off his head, why doesn’t Shiva just re-attach it, instead of an elephant head? Neither does this answer the question of how a god or at least the son of a god can die in the first place. There’s another version of Ganesha’s birth where a rakshasa asks a boon of Shiva (he’s getting pretty predictable by now isn't he?) and Vishnu-as usual-has to extricate him from it; resulting in the substitution of the asura’s head for Ganesha. Why? Don’t ask.
There are some more - like the one where this puja is supposedly better than anything else a Hindu can do (funny how they all claim to be The One) but the leaps of logic required are too much, my head hurts. Finally after much laughing from me and much glaring from my mother, we managed to finish the puja and move on to the reason we even celebrate this festival in the first place – the delicious, made once a year only food!
Answers or more questions welcome in the comments…