I have been fascinated by Sri Ganesha since college. In 1997 I took my mom (who had Alzheimer’s at the time and needed a wheelchair) to Flushing on Long Island to attend Sri Ganesha’s birthday celebration called Chaturthi at the Šri Mahã Vallabha Ganapati Devasthãnam. I had seen a write up in the New York Times and off we went. I had never driven across the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. My mom had many times. In fact we used to watch it being built! My mom would drive us to visit my dad’s best friend in Forest Hills Queens. I hate bridges. I have a phobia about them but I got us across and then we had to stop several times for directions. Back in 1997 the temple complex was on a typical crowded street without any fanfare. Today, I see it’s quite famous.
We were made to feel like visiting dignitaries! A young monk ran up to us blessing us and begging us to visit often. I have 3 creases on my forehead. He seemed extremely excited staring at my face. When I took my mom to one of the many fabulous Indian restaurants in Edison back in 1996, our waiter stared into my face and said that I must be psychic. My mom, at that time would get agitated if anyone spoke to me and I’m sorry to say she made some snide comment and he went back into the kitchen. Since then I’ve had others come up to me, even at airports, and stare at me. It wasn’t until several years later that I met people who said they could “see” something superimposed over me. Not an aura. Something most had never seen before. All I know is since I was very small, I’ve had odd encounters such as that.
Not long before, in 1991, I had taken my mom, her sister, and then their cousin and his wife to the Cultural Festival of India held on the grounds of Middlesex County College in Edison, New Jersey.
The festival was breathtaking. My mom’s cousin, Ralph gushed they they went back twice. I think we went at least three times. I still have the souvenir book. During one of the parades, I leaned forward and yelled “OMG It’s Hanuman!”. My mom and I were one of the only people without any Indian heritage so it was rather amusing to see heads whiplash in amazement. We kind a similar reception when we bumbled into one of the tents where they were about to do a bhajan (singing devotional songs). My mom was enthralled but we didn’t stay long as the dirty looks ruined it. I suspect today we would have been made welcome but 30 years ago, not so much.
So to discover so many people singing mantras along with Yasmin Boland as they learn astrology and “Moonology” brings me great joy!
When Yasmin chants Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha we are inviting Sri Ganesh to join us and to remove any obstacles not just in the mundane sense but in a true spiritual cleansing!
GAM is another seed
I no longer live near a temple, although there is a temple dedicated to Sri Ganesh near Salt Lake City (275 miles from my house). On August 8, 2019 I stumbled upon the TV series Vighnaharta Ganesh on YouTube. Episode 1 had aired in India on August 22, 2017 so I was two years behind and they had planned 2,000 episodes! I had previously watched an animated series but Sony has produced a series with some of the best CGI you could ever hope to see. And so, I began to watch every episode. Some do not have subtitles but there is a synopsis on Telly Updates. If you have the patience to read subtitles, and the patience to endure highly stylized pacing (Beware in these types of epics the director sticks close to the original stage feel so if Sri Ganesha has a stomach ache or says something funny, the camera will pan to ALMOST every single character in the scene – or in heaven. PAUSE, show the OH HOW CUTE or ON NO GASP expressions and then resume the story. It’s like sitting through Kabuki at times. Maybe not the best example but if an American were editing the series a 25 minute segment would get cut to probably 15 or less. BUT bare with it.
I also caution viewers that a lot of the battles are stylized as well. After you’ve watched 10 or more bloody battles – and I mean arm severing, head chopping, stabbing scenes that drag on as if you were living 250,000 years ago and were on a hill watching it all, you can fast forward. Some of it, stick with it. There are lessons embedded in the battles.
The most spell binding story arc is about Sri Ganesha’s brother, Kartikeya who has to battle a demon (asura) in a game of Snakes and Ladders – what I played as a kid as Chutes and Ladders. The CGI is amazing. Kartikeya climbs each ladder and steps into a realm where he must face his own emotions. The realms are set up like a virtual reality game within a game but each opponent, once he steps off the ladder, is often unaware he is IN a game.