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Who is Ganesh? And where is Mt Kailash?

September 12, 2010

Yesterday was Ganesh’s birthday and the close of the 10 day Hindu Festival Ganesh Chaturthi where figures of Ganesh are placed in water to dissolve and float back home to Mount Kailash. I don’t know how many candles would be on his cake, but several thousand might get close.

Last year at Burning Man, as we gave out bandanas and stickers with Ganesh riding a bike on them, we discovered that many people didn’t know who he is. Some did of course, but fewer than I expected, so I thought it was about time to take a moment and explain a little about who Ganesh is and where Mount Kailash is.

Basically, Ganesh is a Hindu deity, the remover of obstacles, the patron saint of artists and writers. And more, of course. Many people pray to him for prosperity. In fact, he is the most popular deity in the Hindu pantheon. Most of the time, he lives on Mount Kailash located high in the Himalayas. He moves among during the days before, during, and after an eclipse and during the 10 days before his birthday.

Mount Kailash, 22,028′ high, is one of the most sacred places on Earth but one of the least visited because it is so difficult to get there in this remote area of Tibet and to be there; people do visit Mount Kailash and now write about it too like in this blog with photos. You can also see for yourself in viewing these slides which show Divine Mother Audrey visit there and circumnavigation of the Mount Kailash in 2006. Here’s a third site with both tectonic and spiritual information about Mt Kailash.

Ganesh is well known, admired, and prayed to beyond the Hindu tradition to Jains and Buddhists as well– just as Christians know who the Jewish King David is, just as they know the stories of Moses and the Red Sea, and honor their stories, so do various Eastern religions honor, worship and celebrate Ganesh.

Different forms of Buddhism express Ganesh in various ways also. The Tibetan Buddhists call him Ganapati, and have a somewhat ambivalent view of him, at times worshiping as the powerful Destroyer of Obstacles and other times having his power subdued.

In  Japanese Shinto and Shingon Buddhism, Ganesh is worshiped as a god of love and he is associated with bliss.

Thai Buddhists call Ganesh “Phra Phikanet” and see him as a remover of obstacles who brings good fortune. At Tipps Thai Restaurant where I went for soup the other day, they told me he brings prosperity. Because he is the god of the arts, you can find him incorporated in the emblem of the Thai Fine Arts Department as pictured.

Even in mostly Muslim Indonesia, you’ll find Ganesh in every Shiva shrine.

Here’s Wikipedia on the Hindu Festival Ganesh Chaturthi and more about the elephant headed god and the patron saint for writers from a post I wrote.

Who is Ganesh for me? As a writer, I love his playfulness; he reminds me to not take everything so seriously. To write is to rewrite, to play with words and language and sounds and ideas. I love that he loves what I do–he loves to dance, he loves literature and art and travel. As the Remover or Destroyer of Obstacles, he is perfect for someone who wants to get around on two wheels as often as possible, and certainly perfect for someone who participates in bike rides to art shows!

This past year has been full of huge challenges for me, certainly one full of obstacles. My husband had lip cancer and surgery, he broke his C2 vertabrae (the hangman’s break), my friend Paul died suddenly and then my mom died the next day.

But it has also been full of opportunities. I went to Portugal, miraculously obtaining a passport in time, and made my flights. My husband didn’t die instantly when he broke his neck (95% of the people who break this bone die immediately and of the 5% who live, only 3% fully recover like my husband did). Small and large impossible obstacles have been removed many times this past year. I am grateful to Ganesh for the ways that he has been a vivid part of my life for over a year. I appreciate him in all of his forms and I look forward to getting to know him better in the coming years.

I even plan a trip to Mount Kailash. After all, he’s been to visit me; it is time to go visit him.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 13, 2010 9:07 pm

    Super article. I’ve always had a soft spot for Ganesh. I think I need to celebrate his birthday today (a day late, but I’m sure he won’t mind).

    let me know when you’re heading for Kailash. I’ll come with you!

  2. September 15, 2010 4:04 am

    Thanks Danika. I don’t think he’ll mind.

    And yes, going to Mt Kailash would be a super adventure to have together!

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