Last year in 2008, I had the great good fortune to be in Chennai to see the clay Ganeshas at Baba’s ashram assembled for Ganesha’s birthday and to help prepare them for the pooja.
First, I was surprised at their size. They were much larger than I expected. I has sponsored them in the past from overseas, I had the mental picture they would be tiny, and these were a good size and required care in handling.
Next, I was surprised how exciting it was to see over 350 Ganeshas lined up. The staff had arranged them very neatly and precisely. There was an air of anticipation, preparation and happiness.
I was impressed at the detailing of the clay Ganeshas.. The features were carefully chiseled out, so the eyes, the trunk, the face, the torso, everything was clear to see.
Next, I was also surprised at how much additional care was given to them. Each Ganesha was given a white thread (like the kind the priests wear) over a shoulder, a cloth shawl was draped over each one along with a flower mala. They were each decorated with sandalwood and kum-kum. The staff carefully examined each one to make sure they all had the proper items put on them. We were kept very busy applying all the items.
They became very “alive” during the pooja performed by the priest. Various members of the community had gathered, as many as could fit into the hall, with older people and children present. Everybody loves Ganesha, and to see so many Ganeshas makes everyone smile. You could feel the clay Ganeshas were sending out love and blessings as they became energized.
There were many elements of the pooja. The names and birthstars of all the sponsors was read, and the priest sprinkled water and more flowers over the clay Ganeshas and did many prayers. All the various elements of pooja such as offering incense and showing ghee lamp and camphor light were performed. Each Ganesha was silently absorbing karma of the sponsor. Sometimes a flower would fall off one during a prayer, and it seemed like a sign of blessing.
The Ganeshas were kept in the sacred space for a few days for additional pooja. I looked in on them several times. They had a very sacred vibration from being energized. They were like a little army of light beings, all lined up.
After all the Ganesha’s birthday rituals were completed, the clay Ganeshas were all transported to the ocean via special truck to be dissolved. Because they are made of all natural materials, the authorities allow for them to be dissolved at a designated spot. This dissolution of the clay Ganesha embodies a dissolution of karma of the sponsor with the blessings of Dattatreya Siva Baba and Ganesha.
I was very impressed with the beauty of the clay Ganeshas, the respectful attention each one was given and how powerful they became through a few days of pooja.
I am looking forward to sponsoring a clay Ganesha again in 2009.