FYS class celebrates Ganesha Puja
On Sept. 24, FYS World Views of Art students, headed by Dr. Kiefer, celebrated Ganesha Puja. This ceremony is in honor of the Hindu God Ganesha on his day of his rebirth. According to Hindu belief, Ganesha is the son of Lord Shiva, one of the supreme gods, and his consort, the goddess of power and weapons, Parvati. The myth begins with a day when Lord Shiva went out and Par- vati wanted to bathe; she breathed life into the statue of a boy she made of sandalwood and her bath water in order to stand guard over her. When Shiva returned he tried to enter the bath however the statue boy did not recognize him thereby denied him entry. Enraged, Lord Shiva asked his followers called Ganas to teach the statue some etiquette; however, it proved to be too strong and killed every last one of them declaring that no could enter while his mother bathed.
Narada, also known as the sage of heaven, with Saptarishis tried to reason with the statue but to no avail. The king of the gods, Indra used his whole divine army to attack the statue boy, but he proved stronger than all of them combined. Shiva was livid at this point and felt he had to defend his pride as a man so he cut off the statue’s head. Parvati witnessed this and became furious with her husband. In order to calm his wife’s seething wrath, Shiva promised to revive her ‘son.’
The remainders of Shiva’s followers searched for the statue boy’s head but they did not find it. They then searched for a dead person’s head that faced North, yet again they failed; however, they did find the head of a dead elephant facing North. So they brought the elephant’s head to Lord Shiva, who fused it onto the boy’s body and brought him back to life. Lord Shiva declared to the world that the boy’s name for all eternity would be Ganesha, which translates literally as Lord of Ganas. From that day Ganesha was considered to be a deity that removes obstacles from one’s path.
The class started with the students picking up the clay statues of Ganesha they had made beforehand. Dr. Kiefer placed incense sticks and LED candles at the altar, and the little figures were placed on a plate with rice. A student started off the ceremony by bathing the altar’s statue of Ganesha with orange juice and milk after which he rang a bell three times. Chrysanthemum flower petals were placed in front of the images of Ganesha by students to symbolize the earth. Fresh fruit was offered to the students to munch on while Dr. Kiefer played Hindu chanting videos. This step is to represent the giving back from Ganesha to his followers. As they gave him fruit and drink, he gave to them the same. This was also a time for Ganesha to clear away all the obstacles that were in the student’s path.
Dr. Kiefer read a quote from a book written by a Catholic priest who spent some years in a Hindu monastery. In it, he stated that he spent time in the monastery observing the monks’ belief and customs in order to strengthen his own Catholic belief. Dr. Kiefer wanted to make a point to her students that even if a culture and religion is different from ours, it can be used to strengthen us and give us knowledge. After the reading the students each took a sip from their orange juice, and then showered their clay statues with uncooked rice. The purpose of this was unknown to Dr. Kiefer as was the reason everything was offered in threes. The ceremony concluded with the students placing the drawings they had made of Ganesha in front of his image.
This class demonstrated what students across Shenandoah University strive for: the union of cultures and knowledge.