Happy Ganesha Chaturthi!

The elephant-headed Ganesha is revered by many yogis and Hindus around the globe. Most well-known as that force that removes obstructions in our path, his commitment and steadiness make him the perfect ally in facing the challenges and fears that arise through the course of life.

Ganesha “Chaturthi” (which literally means the fourth) refers to the fourth day after the new moon of the lunar month Bahdrapada, which usually falls in August or September in the Western calendar. Celebrated as Ganesha’s birthday, for me this is an occasion to celebrate the grounding, strengthening qualities of this sweet divine energy, also known as Ganapati or Vinayaka.

Associated with mula dhara, the root chakra, Ganesha helps build a strong foundation and is traditionally invoked at the beginning of any undertaking. He provides a sense of security and groundedness, yet with a spontaneity that comes of being well-rooted in one’s beliefs and responding to life from that clarity.

In India, it is customary to celebrate this festival for 10 days. On the 10th day, individuals take a clay idol of Ganesha and cast it into a river. In Pune, Ganesha Chaturthi is a festival beyond comparison. Each temple around the city erects a pavilion just outside the temple to hold their Ganesha idol and decorates it with a multitude of lights. During the festival, hordes of people wander the streets to see all the pavilions and to chant and sing their praise of Ganapati.

When I was in Pune last year, I marveled at the amazing lengths people went to, designing magnificent fortresses and bedecking them with so many pulsing electric lights. Music emanated from massive speakers, creating a sort of techno-music rave scene on nearly every street corner. Young people crowded the streets, chanting in call and response style. It was jaw-droppingly impressive.

On this day, may we all honor that divine image that gives us steady grounding. May the obstacles in all of our lives vanish as we connect firmly to our root beliefs.

Om ekadantam mahakayam lambodaram gajananam

Vighnanashakaram devam herambam pranamyaham.

“O single-tusked, great-bodied, big-bellied, elephant-faced

Remover of all obstacles and difficulties, I bow to thee.”