1. Ganesha's Secret (34 min.)Ganesha's Secret: People See God Differently
Ganesha races with Kartikeya
[DP tells the story of Ganesha and Kartikeya's race around the world. Ganesha says to Kartikeya] "You went around the world. I went around my world. Tell me, which world matters more?"
"The world is objective; my world is subjective. The world is rational and scientific; my world is intuitive and emotional. The world is global; my world is local. Both are truths but, as Ganesha asks, what matters more?"
"Myth is an idea churned in my world; mythology is the set of stories, symbols, and rituals that communicate a myth."
"They speak a language that is indifferent to rationality. And so, rivers spout from Shiva's topknot and his son has an elephant head. A subject such as this must, therefore, be approached with empathy and a genuine spirit of curiosity."
"Empathy is sorely lacking in modern times. Everything is judged. Everything is measured."
Gods and Goddesses, gods and goddesses
"When Shiva shuts his eyes, the whole world ceases to be, which is why Shiva is called the destroyer, and is considered God." [there are lesser gods and goddesses, spelling in English with lower-case g]
"Parvati is a Goddess because she embodies the whole range of emotions from fear to love, from domination to affection, while Ganga, the river who spouts out from Shiva's topknot, is a goddess, her divinity restricted to the river she embodies."
"In a temple where Ganesha is worshipped exclusively or Karitkeya is alone, without his father or mother, the gods become God — finite manifestations of the infinite divine."
"She is called Saraswati, a Goddess sometimes addressed as Veda-mata, mother of the Vedas. Brahma did not compose the Vedas — no man can create anything without woman, not even God."
"The four heads represent four expressions of the Veda. They represent the four goals of life, each one validated by Vedic wisdom: dharma (righteous conduct), artha (economic activity), kama (pleasurable pursuits), and moksha (spiritual practices). Just as Brahma is incomplete without any of these four heads, life is incomplete without any of these four goals."
Khandoba: a local Shiva
"Sanskrit texts refer to Khandoba as Martand Bhairava, a fierce form of Shiva, local to the Deccan region. He is a kshetrapala, a guardian of land."
"As a protector, he fights demons. Some demons, like Mani, who ask for repentance, become deities in their own right within the temple precinct, while others, like Malla, whose image is embedded on the steps leading to the shrine, continue to be punished by being trampled on by devotees."
"Khandoba loves turmeric: his shrine, his devotees, and his images are covered in turmeric."
[Khandoba has wives from the merchant community, goatherd community, tailor, seed-pressers, etc.] "The tale of his many marriages binds various communities ritually through a single village-god. Thus each community retains its own identity while being united through Khandoba."
"By linking Khandoba, a local village deity, to a pan-Hindu God like Shiva, the village becomes part of a larger Hindu community. The village is unique, yet part of a greater whole. Its local god is a local manifestation of a more cosmic God."
Other local deities
[DP tells the story of how Vishnu visited earth, fell in love with a princess named Padmavati, and she demanded a bridal price. Vishnu borrowed money from Kubera, and has yet to repay it, so he remains on earth as Tirupati Balaji in Andhra Pradesh.]
[DP discusses the Gujarati goddesses Chamunda and Chotila, who may be local manifestations of Shakti / Parvati as Chamunda, who slew the demons Chanda and Munda.]
"These two goddesses are warriors, and their martial potency is retained by not allowing themselves to be diverted by matrimony or maternity."
[DP discusses theories that these were local people later deified.] "Such conclusions are attempts to rationalize a religious practice, and rarely have an impact on the faith."
DP discusses 12th-century Tamil poet saint Andal / Godal who was "know as the consort of the temple deity, and over time came to be regarded as a goddess."
[DP discusses devadasis.] "In the shrine of Khandoba existed vaghyas and muralis, boys and girls dedicated to the deity, who were not allowed to marry and who were expected to earn a living by singing and dancing."
India and Greece
[DP discusses Vishwakarma, the "Vedic Vulcan," and notes also similarities of Kama and Cupid, and Indra and Zeus.] "Greek mythology is quite different from Hindu mythology. The Greeks did not believe in God — they had gods and goddesses, but no God or Goddess."
"The gods of Greek mythology became masters of the universe by overthrowing the Titans, an earlier race of powerful beings, who in turn had become powerful by overcoming Giants. Such a theme of repeat succession is missing in Vedic literature."
"Not much is known about Vishwakarma. Some identify him with Brahma himself. He is said to have given shape to the world. It is he who fashions the child in a mother's womb."
Bahuchara, goddess of the Hijras
[DP discusses Bahuchara, the goddess of Hijras.] "Hijras are men who feel they are women and so not live in mainstream society. They dress as women and live with other Hijras."
[DP tells the story of two friends; a holy man said one would father a son, another a daughter. They pledged their children in marriage, but the supposed son was born a daughter, raised as a boy, and then sent to fetch his bride.] "She traveled on a mare to the village of the bride. On the way, both fell into a pond. When they emerged, she had become a man and the mare had become a horse. A bitch who was following them and had also fallen into the water turned into a dog. This all happened because Bahuchara was next to the pond."
"Other stories of this goddess tell us that she was a young girl who turned a thief into a Hijra when he dared t molest her while she was on her way to her wedding. Others say that she was a bride who was horrified to discover that her husband was not a man but a Hijra, and so turned into a goddess offering salvation to all Hijras if they served her rather than marrying women. Thus, through this goddess, even the most marginalized minority is included by the divine."
Annapurna and Gayatri
[DP discusses Annapurna, the kitchen goddess, whose most popular shrine is in Kashi (Varanasi).]
[DP discusses Gayatri, a Vedic hymn.] "Chanting the hymn and contemplating on it was only possible for those with superior concentration powers. For most people, a more emotive approach to the idea was required, and so the hymn came to be visualized as a goddess. Through the adoration of this goddess, one hoped to get the same outcome as by chanting the hymn. Thus the idea of the Gayatri hymn came to be embodied within the image of a goddess called Gayatri."
Back to Ganesha
[DP then analyzes the symbolism of Ganesha's elephant head, his fat belly, his rat vehicle.] "Ganesha represents a life full of power and prosperity without any problems. The form of Ganesha is a container of an idea. Ganesha is worshipped because the idea that he evokes is something that Hindus aspire for."
[DP tells the story of Ganesha's birth.] "While bathing, Parvati scrubbed the turmeric paste she had anointed her body with and molded it into a doll, into which she breathed life. The child thus created was named Vinayaka, one who is born without (vina) the help of man (nayaka)."
[DP goes on to tell how Shiva did not know the boy, beheaded him, and then replaced the head with the elephant head of Indra's elephant, Airavat.] "Ganesha thus represents the union of two opposites — Shiva who does not want to marry and raise a family, and his wife who does. Shiva represents spiritual aspiration, the desire to focus on the soul within. Parvati represents material aspiration, the desire to focus on the family and the world around. Hindus have always sensed a tension between these two goals. Ganesha represents a balance between the two." [So also his material body and spiritual head.]
"So this one image of Ganesha can serve as a medium to lofty metaphysical ideas to the Hindu and at the same time function at a very basic level — providing luck as one goes about facing the daily tribulations of life."
"There are gods, goddesses, Gods and Goddesses trying to convey that the divine is both abstract and concrete, both local and global, embodying not only spirit but also matter. Together, they attempt to capture the totality of the infinite divine. Together, they serve as windows to the Hindu worldview."
Parvati, Ganesha, and Shiva