the Ganesa Temple: the Elephant God

“so, you want to know the story?” suren inquired as he sat beside me after doing his weekly ritual, now with a red mark on his forehead and holding a shaven coconut.

“well, it would be nice.” i murmured.

he then explained that Ganesa, the elephant god, is the god of obstacles. he is primarily worshiped for this. “when someone is in the lowest point of his life and has a lot of obstacles and is deeply pained, Ganesa is the god to turn to.” Suren started explaining. he then pointed out the members of Ganesa’s family…from the mother to the brother. i wasn’t wearing my contact lenses but it was quite clear from where i was sitting that the family all have human heads. “he was born with a human head,” he continued, almost as if he was guessing my thoughts. “but he was beheaded and thus, the human head was replaced by an elephant head.”

it sounds almost like a bedtime story for me but watching them do their worship prayers in outmost reverence, it was such an awakening as i have never seen such religious rituals (for the lack of the right term) before. everybody enters the temple barefoot and has to wash their hands and feet before entering the main worship area. i watched them pray and could almost recognize a process in which they do the prayers.

“so, what is with all those hands?” i asked Suren.

“they’re symbolic. each hand is holding something which signifies a particular gesture.” he explained. “i think that the elephant head is also symbolic, you know. that it doesn’t necessarily meant it was really an elephant’s head. sometimes, the real meaning loses overtime.” he murmured.

it was quite hard for me to actually imagine Ganesha, a human with a big belly, to end up with an elephant head and multiple hands. but i guess, at the same reasoning, it is hard for other people to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity. i did not want to deal with this particular kind of philosophy and did not want to start that evening either. i have long ago given up the right to argue about religion. i respect other’s enough to expect them not to question mine.

on our way out, suren went to what looked like a well and slammed the coconut against it. i saw the coconut juice splashed in all directions. as we went outside and reclaimed our shoes, i asked him. “so, what happens when the coconut wouldn’t break?”

“it means whatever it was you prayed for will not be given to you.”

“hmmmn…”

i looked back at the temple as he started the engine. tell me, what is faith, really?

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