‘Ganesh Chathurthi’ celebrations in the ‘Land of Pillayar’

via B R HARAN published on September 5, 2009

Devotion, Patriotism and Unity

Bhagwan Ganesh is the most worshipped deity in the Hindu pantheon. Hindus begin each and every work only after worshipping him, for he is believed to be the remover of all obstacles. All of us, children and elderly alike, adore, admire, revere and worship him with a ‘personal’ touch and the moment we look at him, bhakti starts flowing. We celebrate his ‘Jayanti’ which falls on shukla paksha chaturthi of shravan as Ganesh Chaturthi.

After completing puja, worship and celebration, we immerse the Vigraham (murthy) in a water body such as sea, river, lake, canal or well, the “Visarjanam” ritual. The celebration, restricted to individual homes and temples from olden days, was elevated to the level of streets, areas, villages and towns, by Maratha lion Bal Gangadhar Tilak, to promote unity among Hindus to show their strength against the British. The concept of celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi as a huge social festival spread to other parts of the country and ultimately became a festival of devotion, patriotism and unity.
 
Ganesh – “Pillaiyaar” of Tamil Nadu
 
The Puranas say that the famous river Kaveri was brought to Tamil Nadu by none other than Sri Ganesha, by releasing the river waters from the kamandal of the Rsi Agastya, when he was doing penance at the hills of Coorg.
 
Sri Ganesha was instrumental in the creation of the world famous Vaishnavite shrine Srirangam by deceiving Vibhishan while he was taking the Vigraha of Sri Ranganatha, given by Sri Rama after his coronation, to Sri Lanka. Ganesha enticed Vibhishan to take a bath in the beautiful Kaveri, so he placed the Vigraha on the banks, where it got stuck as per Rama’s warning.

Later, the Adi Cholas build a huge temple at the spot, which became Srirangam. Bhagwan Ganesha blessed the angry Vibhishan by giving him darshan at a nearby hillock, which later became the famous ‘Rock fort’ Ganesh Temple (Malai-kottai Pillaiyaar) of Trichy.    
 
Another Puranic narrative states: Before starting construction of the Rama Setu, Rama decided to worship Bhagwan Ganesha for the successful completion of the task. He went to nearby Uppoor, (5 kms from Setukarai in Ramanathapuram district, where he consecrated the image of Bhagwan Ganesha, which murti is still there! These Puranic episodes are mentioned in “Deivaththin Kural” (Voice of God), which contains the religious discourses of the Great Sage of Kanchi, H.H. Sri Paramacharya.
 
Dravidian Racists’ hatred for Bhagwan Ganesha
 
To create hatred in Tamil minds, the atheist Dravidian parties severely and consistently campaigned against the worship of Bhagwan Ganesha and Bhagwan Rama, conducting huge processions with portraits, pictures and small statues of Rama and Ganesha wearing garlands made of footwear and broomsticks, beating the deities, and breaking the statues and portraits on the road. Dravidian leaders tried to mislead Tamils saying Ganesha and Rama were not “Tamil Gods” but “Aryan Gods” who should not be worshipped.
 
This ugly and outrageous campaign was carried out throughout the state under the leadership of the founder of Dravidar Kazhagam E.V. Ramaswamy (Periyar) and his colleagues like M. Karunanidhi (present CM). Unexpectedly, the consequences were devastating for these parties as hundreds of temples sprang up for Bhagwan Ganesha and lakhs of Vigrahas were placed in each and every street corner throughout the state; the number is still increasing. Tamil Nadu has become the “Land of Pillaiyaar”, the state hosting the largest number of Ganesh Temples in India.
 
Karunanidhi’s takes on Bhagwan Ganesha
 
In 2007, a few days before Ganesh Chaturthi, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi came out with the discovery that Bhagwan Ganesha was brought to Tamil Nadu from Karnataka by the Pallavas after their victory over the Chalukyas, hence Ganesha was not a ‘Tamil God’.  When Shiva (father of Ganesha), Muruga (Tamil god and brother of Ganesha) and Mother Parvati are worshipped by Tamils from ancient times, how could he say Ganesha was not a Tamil god? The history of Sage Agastya and other Siddhars and the various Puranas point to ancient reverence.
 
With his vast knowledge on Tamil literature, Karunanidhi would be aware that Ganesha is extensively mentioned in Tamil literature and that the Saivite trio of Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar worshipped Ganesha through their hymns. He must be aware of the composition, Vinayagar Agaval, by ancient poet ‘Avvaiyar.’ Yet he has always derived a sadistic pleasure from demeaning Hindu Gods for political gains.
 
Ironically, he brashly launched his Kalaignar TV on the auspicious day of Ganesh Chaturthi. But while celebrating its anniversaries since then, true to Dravidian standards, the channel announces that it was telecasting ‘Holiday’ special programs; other channels including SUN network announce Ganesh Chaturthi special programs!  
 
Selective amnesia has made the CM forget that that EVR was a Kannadiga from Karnataka, and that he himself hails from Andhra, from where his ancestors allegedly migrated to Tamil Nadu. If these outsiders could rule Tamil Nadu, what’s wrong in Tamil Hindus worshipping Ganesha, assuming Ganesha was from Karnataka?  
 
The actual number of atheists are not even 5% of the state’s population; DMK could not have captured power with votes of atheists and minorities alone. The party has a huge percentage of votes polled by God-believing Tamil Hindus and as Chief Minister of the state, Karunanidhi is expected to treat all equally irrespective of caste and religion. Sadly, during his entire tenure in the past and at present, he has always behaved as an anti-Hindu.  
 
Recent happenings in the state
 

The main consequence of the consistent anti-Hindu stance of the Dravidian parties is that the minority communities have been emboldened to act against the majority and have started to interfere in the celebration of Hindu religious festivals, particularly Ganesh Chaturthi. Let us look at a few recent happenings in the state.
 
When Hemanth of Hindu Munnani wanted to place a Ganesh Vigraha in his locality in Pudupet, Chennai city, the local Muslims objected and the police forced him to shift the murti to another place. This happened on 22 August.
 
In Thiruppur, when a Visarjan procession was going along a main road with police protection on 25 August, a group of Muslims from a roadside mosque pelted stones and damaged the vehicles carrying the Vigrahas and broke some of them. Though the police brought the situation under control, the procession was delayed more than three hours.
 
The same day (25 August), at Boothapandi in Kanyakumari District, a group of Muslims dressed as policemen attacked a Ganesh Pandal in the wee hours and broke the Vigraha to pieces. They attacked the six Hindu youths guarding the Pandal with sickles and knives and escaped in two wheelers. The police have registered a case.
 
Muslims of Begampur in Dindigul are notorious in creating unrest and indulging in violence during Visarjan processions; this has been going on since 1998. This year one of them approached the High Court demanding a ban on the procession and change of route (so that it did not pass in front of the mosque), the Court dismissed the petition. Despite this, the district authorities, on 25 August, forced the bhaktas to stop chanting Ganesh namas and playing musical instruments while passing in front of the mosque.
 
One Mohammed Chipli of Muthupet, Thiruvarur district, had filed a petition in the High Court requesting a change of route of the Ganesh Visarjan procession. His contention was that more than 15,000 Muslims live in Muthupet and that the procession must not pass by the mosques, as every year it results in violence causing heavy loss of properties. The First Bench comprising Chief Justice Gokhale and Justice Murugesan, which heard the petition on 26 August, ordered the district authorities to look for an alternative route and also strict and severe action against those who disrupt the procession.    
 
In 2007, in Thammampatti in Salem district, it was reported that hundreds of Muslims staged a dharna in front of the local police station protesting the placement of Ganesh Vigrahas. In turn, thousands of Hindus protested at the Bus Stand, without obstructing

bus traffic. The protest and counter protest led to a heavy lathi-charge by the police; police also filed FIRs against more than five hundred Hindus. In a rare show of unity, Hindus came together across caste and party affiliations and all Hindu businessmen and vendors closed their shops and suspended business for five days, which made the Muslims climb down from their unacceptable demands. Even the local police and government authorities were shell-shocked at the united show by the Hindus.
 
In 2001, the government banned the processions and arranged for the Visarjan by the police and revenue departments.

 

Facts and Questions
 
While analyzing the above, we infer the following facts and questions:
 

– Only the public thoroughfare, which is common to all, has been used for Visarjan processions and that too only once a year.

– The demand of the Muslim community that processions must not pass their worship place and that music must not be played while passing by mosques is unreasonable, unjustified and totally unacceptable.

– Violence, which used to occur rarely, has spread throughout the state over the years, along with the increase and spread of Muslim fundamentalist outfits.

– The action of the police and other authorities in yielding to the unreasonable demands of the Muslims and forcing Hindus to change the procession route and stop playing musical instruments does not augur well for the government.

– Muslims must accept that it is not fair to object to an annual event which takes just a few minutes to cross their worship place, while they themselves call for Namaz five times daily through loudspeakers. Moreover, a lot of old mosques are situated and new mosques have come up close to Hindu temples; their loudspeakers disturb the prayers and puja rituals in the temples. Will Muslims accept if Hindus demand for a ban on loudspeakers in mosques? So far Hindus have never interfered in Muslim festivals and celebrations, respecting their religious sentiments. Muslims must refrain from interfering in Hindu celebrations.

– Whenever the Dravidian parties conduct state level conferences, the cadres come to the capital in lakhs by hundreds of vans, buses and other transports. The cadres are invariably drunk and shout, scream and are noisy; such long convoys pass by mosques in many places. Why don’t Muslims ever object to these disturbances?

– The police set restrictions on the height of the Vigrahas, number of Vigrahas to be carried in procession, number of people, procession route and playing of music, and also ask Hindus to make their own security arrangements for the Ganesh Pandals. While police in cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata (where Muslims are numerous) and other states allow Hindus to celebrate freely without restrictions, why is Tamil Nadu police behaving like this?

– For more than four decades, the Dravidian parties and leaders have been insulting Hindus, ridiculing Hindu culture and demeaning Hindu Gods and have never conveyed greetings on Hindu festivals. They have been very accommodative of minorities and greet them on their festivals and join the celebrations. Is it because of this blatant anti-Hindu stand of the rulers that Muslims are against Hindus?         
 
The solution lies with the people
 
We do get rare reports that in some places Muslims welcomed the Visarjan processions and community leaders garlanded the Vigrahas and conveyed greetings to Hindus. Such acts are good for communal harmony, but Hindus basically want respect for their religious sentiments and non-interference in their rituals and celebrations by the community as a whole.
 
Peace and harmony are not in the hands of government or police or politicians. It is in the hands of the general public. If every community understands and respects the sentiments of others, peace and harmony will prevail. May Bhagwan Ganesha bless this nation with His infinite wisdom!

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