Rituals and their significance
Before commencing the ritualistic worship, rice (grain) is spread over the seat on which the idol is to be installed. Either a fistful or a mound of rice is used, depending on the local custom. On invocation of Ganapati and His ritualistic worship, energy is generated in the idol. This energy saturates the rice on which the idol is placed. If there are two strings of a musical instrument (a stringed musical instrument) of the same frequency, when sound is generated by one the same is generated by the other. Similarly, when frequencies of energy are generated in the rice below the idol, this energy is transmitted to the rice stored in the house. Thus one can eat rice saturated with energy as a sacrament of food (prasad) throughout the year.
When performing each of the following rituals a
particular mantra is recited.
1. Sipping water from the palm (achaman): This brings about internal purification.
2. The resolve (sankalpa): It may be difficult to obtain the benefit of a ritual without making a resolve.
3. Purification of the seat (asanshuddhi): This is brought about by touching one’s seat and offering obeisance (namaskar).
4. Chanting the Purushsukta (Purushsukta nyas): Amidst chanting of the Purushsukta, the deity should be invoked in one’s heart, head, small portion of hair on the head (shikha), face, eyes and between the eyebrows. This facilitates an increase in the sattvik (sattva predominant) temperament.
5. Worship of the pot (kalashpuja): All deities, seas, holy rivers, etc., should be invoked in the pot. Sandalwood paste (gandha), consecrated rice (akshata) and flowers should be offered to the pot. This sattvik water is then used in the ritualistic worship.
6. Worship of the conch (shankhapuja): The conch should be washed and filled with water. Then sandalwood paste and white flowers should be offered to it. One should not offer consecrated rice and tulsi leaves to it.
7. Worship of the bell (ghantapuja): One should create sound by ringing the bell to welcome the deities and drive off the demons (asurs). The bell should be placed to one’s left and sandalwood paste, consecrated rice and flowers should be offered to it.
8. Worship of the lamp (dipapuja): Sandalwood paste and flowers are offered to the lamp.
9. Purification (pavitrikaran): The water from the conch should be poured onto one’s right palm and then sprinkled over oneself and on the substances to be used in the ritualistic worship.
10. Worship of the entrance (dvarpuja): Flowers and consecrated rice should be scattered in all four directions. This itself is the worship of the guardian deities of the directions (dikpal).
11. Consecration of the idol (pranpratistha): One should place the right hand over the heart of the idol of the deity and chant a mantra. Consecration of an idol is done at Ganesh chaturthi or to activate any new idol. This is not included in the usual ritualistic worship, as due to the regular worship the God principle has already been attained by it.
12. Meditation (dhyan): One should chant ‘Vakratunda mahakaya suryakoti samaprabha Nirvighnam kurume deva sarva Karyeshu Sarvada
13. Invocation (avadhan): Uttering ‘Om sahastrashirsha Purushaha” one should offer consecrated rice. The resolve is the same as is made when giving an invitation for a thread ceremony, wedding, etc.
14. The seat (asan): Consecrated rice is offered to the seat.
15. The feet (padya): One should sprinkle water on the idol’s feet either with flowers or durva. This symbolizes washing the deity’s feet.
16. Offering water (arghya): One should take an offering of spoonful (pali) of water, mix sandalwood paste (gandha) in it and sprinkle that water onto Ganapati’s body using a flower. This is akin to welcoming guests by sprinkling rose water.
17. Sipping water from the palm (achaman): Imagining that the deity is sipping water from its palm, one should offer water with the offering spoon to the deity, thrice.
18. Ablution for cleansing of the body (malapakarshsnan): One should bathe the deity using the offering spoon.
19. Bathing with the five nectars (panchamrutsnan): First bathe the idol with a mixture of milk, honey, curd, clarified butter (ghee) and sugar that is panchamrut. Then bathe it with a spoonful of water. One should offer water as if God is sipping water (achman), thrice and finally offer sandalwood paste, consecrated rice and flowers.
20. Ritualistic worship before the main worship (purvapuja): After worship with sandalwood paste, consecrated rice (akshata), flowers (red flowers for Ganapati), frankincense and a lit lamp, the remaining panchamrut should be used as an offering (naivedya). To make this offering, a mandal (a circle) should be made by sprinkling water in front of the idol. The panchamrut should then be placed on it. (The mandal prevents energies other than those of deities from manifesting there to partake of the offering.) Beginning on the left, using a flower or a tulsi leaf one should sprinkle water around the vessel containing the panchamrut. Then closing the eyes and directing the odour of the offering with the fingers towards the deity one should chant the mantra related to the five vital energies ‘Om pranaya svaha, Om apanaya svaha, Om vyanaya svaha, Om udanaya svaha, Om samanaya svaha, Om Brahmane svaha twice. This means I offer to you O pran, apan, vyan, udan, saman and Brahman. Both the times one should conclude the mantra by sprinkling water around the vessel. Then uttering ‘Neivedyamadhyepaniyam Samparyami’, meaning ‘I offer this at Your feet’, a little water should be sprinkled on the offering. This further enhances the sattva component in the offering. Thereafter, to signify the washing of the hands and mouth, water should be poured over the hand into a circular, shelving metal dish (tamhan), thrice. A flower dipped in sandalwood paste should be offered to Ganapati. Betel leaves should be placed in front of the deity and water should be poured over them. One should offer flowers and obeisance and then release water into the circular, shelving metal dish.
21. Consecration by sprinkling with water (abhishek): After ritualistic worship and before the main worship, consecration by sprinkling with water, according to the Atharvashirisha or Brahmanspatisukta is done. Water is sprinkled on the idol either with a blade of sacred grass (durva) or a red flower.
22. Offering cloth (vastrarpan) : Two red cloths should be offered.
23. Offering the sacred thread (yadnyopavit): The sacred thread should be offered.
24. Smearing with sandalwood paste (vilepan): With the ring (fourth) finger one should apply sandalwood paste.
25. Offering consecrated rice (akshatarpan) : Consecrated rice should be offered.
26. Offering saffron coloured powder (sindurarpan): A saffron coloured powder (sindur) should be offered.
27. Various fragrant substances (anya parimaldravya) : Turmeric, vermilion (kumkum), red coloured powder (gulal), a powder containing fragrant substances (bukka), asthagandha, etc., are offered.
28. Offering flowers (pushparpan) : Red flowers should be offered. Offering tulsi to Ganapati is prohibited because Ganapati mostly favours devotion with expectation (sakam bhakti) while tulsi denotes detachment (vairagya). Thus devotees of Ganapati would not even grow tulsi plants in their compound unlike most Hindus.
29. Ritualistic worship of the entire body (angapuja) : Either consecrated rice or flowers should be offered to every part of Ganapati’s body, from the feet to the head while performing His ritualistic worship.
30. Ritualistic worship with other Names (namapuja) : While chanting each Name, the durva should be dipped in red vermilion paste and offered one by one.
31. Worship with leaves (patrapuja) : With each offering of a leaf of a different kind a specific Name should be chanted.
32. Worship with flowers (pushpapuja) : Flowers of different kinds with their stalks facing the deity, should be offered while chanting a specific Name with each type of flower.
33. Worship with frankincense (dhupadarshan) : Frankincense and incense should be moved in a circular fashion in front of the idol.
34. Worship with a lit lamp (dipadarshan) : A lit metal lamp (niranjan) should be moved in a circular fashion.
35. Offering food (naivedya) : It should be offered in the same way as described in ritualistic worship before the main worship (purvapuja).
36. Offering betel leaves along with betelnut, lime, cardamoms, etc., (tambul) : After placing betel leaves in front of the deity, water should be poured over them.
37. Offering money (dakshina) : The offering should be placed on betel leaves and water should be poured over it.
38. Offering fruit (phalasamarpan) : A coconut should be placed with its tip pointing towards the deity and water should be poured onto it. If a coconut is not available then seasonal fruits should be used. [The energy from the deity enters the pointed tip of the coconut, which is later consumed by devotees as a sacrament (prasad). Thus, they receive that energy.]
39. Prayer (prarthana): Chanting the mantra ‘Avahanam na janami…. one should pour water over the palm and release it into the circular, shelving metal dish (tamhan).
40. Partaking of holy water (tirthaprashan) : Chanting the mantra ‘Akalmrutyuharanam….one should partake of the holy water.
41. Moving lit lamps (arti): Amidst singing, lit lamps should be moved in a circular fashion.
42. Prayer (prarthana): ‘Surrendering at your feet ….’ should be recited.
43. Offering flowers in the form of a mantra (mantrapushpanjali): This offering is made in the form of a mantra ‘Om yadnyena yadnyamayajantam’.
44. Obeisance offered by the devotees (darshanarthincha namaskar): Those present for arti and mantrapushpanjali as well as those who come to pay obeisance throughout the day, should offer flowers and a sacred grass (durva) to Ganapati and prostrate before Him. The members of the family where the idol is being worshipped should offer them a sacrament of food.
Intermediate ritualistic worship (madhyapujavidhi)
As long as the idol of Ganapati is in the house, it should be ritualistically worshipped as usual, in the morning and evening. The worship should be concluded with singing of artis and offering flowers reciting a mantra.
The concluding ritualistic worship (uttarpuja)
A. The ritual: This ritualistic worship is to be performed before the immersion of Ganapati. The worship should be performed amidst the chanting of specific mantras as follows:
1. Sipping water from the palm (achaman)
2. Making the resolve (sankalpa)
3. Offering sandalwood (chandanarpan)
4. Offering consecrated rice (akshatarpan)
5. Offering flowers (pushparpan)
6. Offering turmeric and vermilion (haridrakumkumarpan)
7. Offering sacred grass (durva – durvrpan)
8. Lighting the lamp and frankincense (dhupa-dipadarshan)
9. Offering food (naivedya). (Variation: Turmeric and vermilion are offered along with the sandalwood.)
Performing the aarti thereafter, flowers should be offered along with the recitation of a mantra (mantrapushpanjali). Everyone should offer consecrated rice onto Ganapati’s hand and move the idol with the right hand.
B. Significance: The aim of this ritualistic worship is to endow the one performing it, with Ganesh frequencies. In ritualistic worship of Ganesh, the concluding ritualistic worship (uttarpuja) is the final step in augmenting the frequencies. During the concluding ritualistic worship all the pure particles (pavitrakas) present in the idol are expelled suddenly. This ritualistic worship is concluded by shifting the idol from its place. Consequently all the pure particles abandon the idol and the one performing the worship can acquire them.
‘In a temple of Lord Ganesh the concluding ritualistic worship is performed after the vowed ritualistic worship (mahapuja) by one devotee is completed. Then the vowed ritualistic worship by the next devotee is performed. This concluding ritualistic worship has special significance here. Ganapati should be bidden farewell (immersed) with honor “with an invitation to return”. Thus the concluding ritualistic worship is important.’
After the concluding ritualistic worship, the idol is immersed in flowing water. When taking Ganapati for immersion one should also give curd, puffed rice, coconut, modak, etc., as provision for the journey. Beside the banks of the flowing water where the idol is to be immersed, one should perform aarti once again and then release the idol along with the provisions into the water. After immersion it is customary to bring home the earth from that place and to sprinkle it all over the house.
An important point regarding immersion of Ganesh is that the divinity induced in the mud idol by consecration cannot remain in it beyond one day. This means that no matter when the Ganesh idol is immersed, on the second day divinity from it is already lost. Hence after performing the ritualistic worship of the idol of any deity immersing it that very day is most appropriate in all aspects. Even if one observing seclusion due to birth (soyar) or death (sutak) in the family a priest should be made to perform the vowed religious observance of Ganesh (Ganeshvrat). Similarly immersion on the decided day without waiting for an event such as a delivery, etc., in the family is correct according to the scriptures.
What should one do if the idol gets damaged?
If a part of an idol breaks before consecrating it with divinity or showering it with consecrated rice (akshata) to remove the divinity from it before its consecration then it should be replaced by another. If after the divinity is lost, a part of the idol is damaged the idol should be immersed as usual. If the idol is damaged after consecration, it should be immersed after showering it with consecrated rice. If this occurs on Ganesh Chaturthi then one should worship another idol. However, if it occurs on the second or third day of Ganesh Chaturthi, there is no need to worship a new idol. If the idol is damaged completely, then with the advice of the family priest according to the opportune season, ‘ Adbhut darshan shanti’ a ritual for peace in the family should be performed. If ill-omen like falling of a lit lamp, breaking of grinding stone, sprouting of seeds of a cress tree, damage to an idol etc., are observed, it indicates impending financial loss, a serious illness or premature death in the family. Hence the above remedies should be performed devotedly.
Science behind some special substances used in the worship
One of the objectives of ritualistic worship is to charge the idol being worshipped with divine consciousness (chaitanya) so that it helps one in making spiritual progress. In order to generate that divine consciousness, the substance, which is offered to that idol, has more ability to attract the most subtle pure particles (pavitrakas) of that deity, from as far as the maha region in comparision to other substances.
1. Durva: A sacred grass called durva has special importance in the ritualistic worship of Ganapati.
i) Origin and meaning: The word durva is derived from duhu + avam Duhu means that which is far away and avam means that which brings closer. Durva is thus that which brings the distant pure particles (pavitrakas) of Lord Ganesh, closer. Durva offered to Ganapati should be tender. It is called baltrunam. When it matures it becomes merely a type of grass. The durva should have leaflets in odd numbers 3, 5 or 7.
ii) The length: Formerly the idol used to be about one metre in height. Hence the durva used would have the length of a sacrificial fire stick (samidha). If the idol has the height of a sacrificial fire stick then shorter durva should be used. However even if the idol is huge then the length of durva used should not exceed that of the sacrificial fire sticks. The durva are tied together just like sacrificial fire sticks. This preserves their fragrance for a longer duration. To keep it fresh for a longer period it is kept soaked in water and then offered. Both these factors attribute towards preserving the pure particles of Ganapati in the idol for a longer duration.
iii) The number: Durva is mostly offered in odd numbers like 5, 7, 21, etc., as they are associated with Energy (Shakti). This facilitates the entry of larger amounts of energy into the idol. Usually 21 durva blades are offered. 21 according to numerology is 2 + 1 = 3. According to numerology, Ganapati is formed from number 3. Since number 3 represents origin, sustenance and dissolution, due to its energy it is possible to destroy the 360 frequencies. If offered in even numbers then most of the 360 frequencies are attracted first and later the 108 frequencies. (Ravan used to offer 360 + 108 = 468 durva.)
iv) The method of offering: The entire body of Ganapati excluding the face should be covered with durva. This results in spread of the fragrance of durva around the idol. Since the idol is covered with durva this fragrance assumes the form of Ganapati and facilitates the attraction of the form of Ganapati’s pure particles to this form. This itself is called acquisition of a similar form. In other words, it is activation of the idol. The idol is consecrated (pranpratishta) to prevent the pure particles, which have entered it, from escaping. Also the pure particles remain in greater quantities as long as the fragrance persists. To retain them there the durva is changed thrice in a day. Hence, ritualistic worship is performed thrice a day.
2. Shami leaves: The shami tree is the habitat of Agni (the deity of fire). To retain their radiance the Pandavas had kept their weapons in a hollow of this tree. The fire created by friction is done with sticks of the shami tree.
3. Coral (mandar) leaves: There is a difference between the two trees milkweed (rui) and coral. The fruits of the milkweed are colored while those of the coral are white. Just as mercury is a chemical among medicines, so also is the coral among trees.
4. Red substances: Ganapati’s complexion is red. Red cloth, flowers and red sandalwood (raktachandan) are used in His worship. Due to the red color of these substances, pure particles (pavitrakas) of Ganapati in the atmosphere get attracted to the idol in greater quantities and help its activation. Since it is difficult to understand this, one is simply told that Ganapati loves red cloth, red flowers and red sandalwood (raktachandan).