Lord Ganesha – Why he has an elephant head and why he’s the first to get a pooja?

Mr.Ganesha… Adhya-Poojita (first to be worshipped), my husband’s favourite whom he lovingly calls our Ganapanna, & whom a Kannadiga householder would have lovingly addressed (him) as Nam-Ganeshaa.. as if talking about a child who has gone out to play & may return any time soon!! An artists’ delight towards imagination… Often woven funny stories around, {even sometime ridiculed by other religious salesmen.. anything for gains/commission I guess}. Yet He somehow somewhere fits in to any mold. It’s a freedom enjoyed by the followers of Sanatana Dharma what is today known as Hinduism. A liberty to perceive the Devas & Devatas as they reckon with.

It is said that when Sage Vyasa wanted to write the Great Epic Mahabharata, the only one who was able to grasp & note the dictation was none other than Mr. Ganesha.  Ganesha is said to have agreed to write only if Vyasa never paused in his recitation & on the other hand, Sage Vyasa agrees on condition that Lord Ganesha takes the time to understand what was said before writing it down! A grandeur beyond human contemplation. In the Indian culture since yore, the scriptures are passed from Guru to Shishya. Indian civilization is the oldest surviving culture & the knowledge is passed from mouth to mouth, a tradition which seems to have started from Ganesha. His teachings seem eternal & fit in best today even more so. So Who is He in reality?

Everyone says he was born out of Mother Parvathi’s palm-dirt (or the turmeric from the body), to guard her bathroom & Lord Shiva cut off his head when not allowed to go inside his own house. Later to calm a furious Parvathi (who challenged to destroy the entire creation itself) & to appease her, He got his head fixed with a baby elephant’s head as the original head could not be located… perhaps rolled down the slopes of Kailash. When Lord Shiva’s Gana (army) went in search of the head they could not locate it. Then Lord Shiva told them to get the head of anybody sleeping with their head to north. The only being sleeping with its head to north was the baby elephant. So is it really factual? An era when they could travel between Lokas (world) & create at will was having a bathroom door or getting a head a problem or impossible task?

When young, everyone (at least 99.5%) loves their life & do not want to lose their head at any cost… So Mothers often recite this tale to discourage youngsters from sleeping with their head to North, which is considered bad as the magnetic field in the north could affect the blood flow to brain in the longer run.

According to scriptures, Mahadeva (highest among the Devas) was the first tribal head who lived in Mount Kailash & was known as Adinath (he has one too many names like Shiva, Vrishabadeva, etc., etc.,). Lord Ganesha (Ganapati, Vinayaka, etc., etc.,) was the eldest son of Adinatha & Parvathy & born as a handsome regular boy. As a son of divine beings, he was very gifted & spiritual. As he grew up his spiritual knowledge grew along with him making him one of the most powerful in terms of spirituality. He was the master of all the Vedas & Upanishads, an erudite of every Vidya in totality. So much so even the Mahadeva himself had accepted his teaching & considered him as his Guru. It’s not an easy task for a father to accept his son as his teacher as it’s a well-known fact that a father is considered as Guru & not son.  Lord Ganesha was an exceptional case & Lord Shiva out of love & respect had said to him, “you will be worshiped even before me always!”. True to that, even to this day Lord Ganesha is the first one who receives the offerings, & worshipped everywhere. And in every Shiva temple for that in every temple there is Lord Ganesha’s idol & everyone offers their obeisance first to him. He is considered as the remover of obstacle, bestower of knowledge & it is believed that if he is happy everything goes smoothly with his grace.

One of his most powerful teaching was that humans & animals should live in harmony otherwise there will be an imbalance in nature. In other words, symbiotic relationship is the Universal secret of Survival. Compassion towards the fellow creature will not only create harmony & peace but will also maintain the balance of nature. For example, if all the insects particularly bees disappear then it’s very unlikely that human race would survive. So even though we humans presume that most of the insects & animals around us are useless & purposeless, we are gravely mistaken. In the play of things, in the very fabric of creation everything is inter-linked & balanced together. Directly or indirectly everything has a role to play. It is something man took too long to understand because of his selfishness & ignorance but now slowly everyone is realizing its truth.

After understanding this reality, to pass on this secret of survival to the future generation, his early followers created the stone statue of Lord Ganesha in the form of man with the head of an animal. They captured the essence in stone idol expecting that in case of disaster like fire or any other calamity, the statue would still remain carrying his eternal message. Guess they under estimated human ability (remember Bamiyan Buddhas??) They also made Mushika (Rat) as his Vahana (vehicle), to represent parity that whether big or small they have a role to play, a dignity & importance of their own & all beings are equal. (We can even consider the same application to gender, wealth, etc., whichever differentiate, as all imparities are human creation). Unfortunately, we have managed to wipe out scores of animals & insects in our journey towards modernization & still continue to do so…

When I think of the animal killings in India, the very culture where this truth was revealed, it astounds me as to how the illusion of proving that they are better than others, draw men mad. In this RAT-race (of what I still don’t understand), we are becoming not just the undisputed predators in the creation but also we will end up ruining our own future.

 

His second most important teaching is that the detachment from Vyamoha*… he says attachment is unhealthy. Attachment even to the God itself will not take you to God because one gets obsessed with the attachment hindering the very purpose of God realisation. For example, we are so attached to our body, family, food, comforts, wealth, etc., etc., we would go to any length to hold on to that attachment even to the extent of committing the heinous crimes. This part of detachment is showcased by his early devotees which are followed even to this day without even knowing the very purpose of it. What it is.. Take a pick!!

Every year after Ganesha Chaturthi, after worshiping Lord Ganesha to one’s heart’s content his idol will be immersed in water body what is called Visarjane. Those days it was made out of simple clay & then immersed in water which had no environmental effect. But now it’s become a fancy… & all sorts of chemical colours, etc., are used. Sadly, even with God we have created our own competition… who spends more money or who creates the biggest or who does it with fanfare. It’s so funny… in the name of progress & competition we are even selling our own souls. If the almighty God & Devas-Devis are so powerful & plentiful, materialistically what would they want from us mortals? Do they really want shelter, food & protection from us? All that they need is for us to live like human beings.. the real crowning glory of creation.

Ganapati literally means leader of all the Ganas (classes of beings ranging from insects, animals & humans to the subtle & celestial beings) & is considered as the destroyer or remover of the darkness created by ignorance & guide us towards ultimate truth. Hope the humanity understands the secret of survival before it is too late.

No wonder he commands love & respect without demand.

{Vyamoha… there is no equivalent in English something like cocktail of lust, whim, desire, etc…)

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FACE to FACE with the largest bunch of flower I have ever seen….

It was few years ago that I first I heard about the Jade Vine, from the legume/bean family & its multinational cousins. I learnt this from my plant guru, the late Dr Achaiah, a walking encyclopedia. I was tagging along with him once so that I could fetch some wild mushrooms. Looking at the bunches of maroon outer & little red flowers hanging around the mango tree, I said these are lovely & looks like the ornamental pieces of a chandeliers. I came up with a suggestion… may be you should make a structure in different sized circles to support the vines to create a natural chandelier & we all can sit under it & drink coffee… he said your wish is not my command you don’t eat my head run along now!!

We both always agreed to disagree on everything yet I followed him ignorant, enthusiastic & eager to learn & he was glad someone was willing to learn… so he explained to me about the four different vines among the many around their mansion.

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The second one he told me about also with maroon outer & yellow flowers but with a different look altogether. It had no flower but I knew what he was talking as many of my relatives had it in their homes. Both had their own beauty & the first one is pretty simple like a homeless person goes unnoticed most of the time (figure 1). The second one little more attractive & makes its presence felt once a while (will post the picture when available). I was trying to impress with him with my knowledge of flowers quoting the silver oaks & the orange bunch flower we see at Mysore university campus & then told about the burgundy sausage tree flower. He said that’s all on trees & I am talking about the vine.

Finally when I saw the other two little vines supposed to be floriferous from pea family. They were growing on a pillar, and were actually imported costing a small fortune….   A flower which is going to look like the flower of pea.. & wondered if it is really worth it? They were the Jade vine & Red Jade vine (aka scarlet jade vine & New Guinea creeper) scientifically known as Strongylodon macrobotrys & Mucuna bennettii respectively. Then I mentioned the purple Wisteria flower hanging like grape bunches, also from pea family, which I saw in Niagara Falls the sight of which is enchanting in some Hollywood movies & serials. All the vines are evergreen.

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After that first time I saw these flowes, on every subsequent visit to Ashok’s place, I searched for the flowers in vain & finally when I came across the pitcher flower in the nearby pot, wondered what the jade vine would really show case? Finally August… 2014 I got lucky, after a long wait met the fully bloomed Red Jade flowers & the buds of Jade vine.

The RED JADE, she was a beauty in her own rights….. she mesmerized & practically forced me to stand motionless & admire her. Even the pouring rain & cloudy weather could not dampen her spirit & beauty. She was already a month old & in full bloom, a cascading cluster of brilliant red-orange pendulous flowers which looked as if someone had meticulously chained them together to form a raceme…. I have never seen such perfect wholesale orange colour in my life other than the saris… Individual translucent flowers are clawed & the formation looks somewhere between flame of the forest & its cousins coral tree & panivala flower. Her perfect texture with absolutely no blemish on her celluloid boat shaped body which almost gives the feeling it’s not natural & plastic(ky). My husband said it reminded him of the cock’s head & its beak & for me it reminded the beak of a parrot.

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It is said to be from New Guinea, I nick named her the middle class beautify, who is here to showcase her beauty & strength… the influence she can have on society!! The striking bright red-orange flower in full bloom could stay around two months (or more). So when the bunch starts blooming from one end to the other, it blooms till the entire bunch is bloomed then is still fresh.. so I guess it’s there for quite a while.

And then I saw the Miss Universe…THE JADE VINE, one of her kind challenging everyone one nearby… the colour of the bud blue/green or turquois or jade or copper oxide or somewhere near aqua… something so uncommon… sorry I am lost & have absolutely no idea! I have seen NATURAL green roses & orchids but absolutely no memory of jade coloured flower. One has to see it to believe its magnanimous size, unusual colour & smooth surface like a baby’s butt… I had to catch hold of my best friend’s handy man Kutty who is 5.1 feet to pose with the bunch so that I can remember the size. It’s almost 5 feet along with the top of the stem as the buds starts from few inches in a bunch. It is still growing like Lord Hanumanji’s tail in Sundarkand of Ramayana, as if to challenge me for questioning her worthyness!! Sadly it seems like the life span of jade flower is shorter than that of the orange & it started falling early… may be the mother is tired of over demanding child!!

Also known as emerald vine & turquoise jade vice, said to be native to forest of Mount Makiling on Luzon, the largest & most northern island in the Philippines (Tayabak), is also found in Hawaii, Jamaica, some warm humid strips of South Africa, etc. It’s hard to say where ANY PLANT species originated as no one has ever explored the entire Universe. Just because someone comes across a particular plant at a particular location at a particular time, they say it’s originated there. It’s like Christopher Columbus calling new world as India & calling the natives Indians!! Moreover they end up putting such difficult scientific name or sadly change the name after the person supposed to have dis-covered… oh boy!

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Guess she is not that hard to grown but one has to be patient enough to wait for at least 2 years. Even though the growth seems to be little slow in the beginning, as the vine gets strong foot hold, under healthy conditions the large woody climber creeps generously & if not trained it would climb at its own whims & fancy. Sky is the limit seems to be the mantra for the growth of all the vines. Tender leaves are fragile & it looks glassy & dark somewhere between purplelish (reddish-brown/black) & then it turns to green. The stem is dark brown with finely peeling bark.

Fortunately I got the chance to see both of them this year. This is the second bloom of the vine & absolutely no idea if it is going to have any pods or the seeds this year too. Last years the vine bore few small bunches & no seeds. Ironically even though the tiny little black-ants were milling in & out, I could not see any sign of sweet attraction of the bees or other insects including wasps & not sure if it attracts any birds with long beak like humming bird or nocturnal pollinators like the bats. Since it is not native to South India & with ever dwindling bugs & little birds, whether it calls for hand pollination like the vanilla (see my earlier article) or will it be able to produce pods & seeds has to be seen in time. It is advised to plant male & female vines side by side… well I really can’t identify them!! Sorry folks we cannot give you a plant as this cannot be propagated by cuttings it seems.

Even though I wanted to spend more time with the flowers, I had to bid good bye soon but I am definitely planning to monitor the flower in 2015 from beginning to end, record it & also will write about it along with the pictures in different stages to those who are interested. But if Mother Nature will favor me with a bloom that size in 2015 is a big question mark!! It is said that coffee grounds (used coffee powder) increase the number of bunches… How proud my plant Guru would have been to see the flower if it had bloomed an year earlier…

Note: Unfortunately rather sadly the jade bunch was cut by a naughty child who was visiting just before it bloomed. Hope the vine will be kind enough to grace one more large bunch in the near future.

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Blue Colored Bees, am I kidding?

Thanks to all…

When I started off with my blog, even though I am very passionate about the things around me, I was apprehensive about my writing skill & how it will be received. But most of my friends, colleague & family encouraged me & continues to encourage me. When they find something interesting straightaway it ends up on my lap. My readers also have been very supportive & it reached four & a half thousand mark, its really motivational.

My best friend sent me this picture yesterday of two different kol-thenu (stick honey) so called because they build their hives on low lying straight branches of the shrubs/trees. It’s so very beautiful, truly a work of art… I always admire the engineering skills of Mr. & Mrs. Bees.

One is like a … oh it remind me of so many things… sawed teak log to monkey face to pizza to what not.. use your own imagination.

The second one is like the bottom half of India map.. what is eye catching is that in the first one you can see the gray coloured worker bee & the black dots are the head of the bees in the comb. You can see the pairs of eyes very clearly.

The third picture (close-up of second) you can see the blue colour of the bee baby just out in open… blue bee babies… I never saw anything like it before. You can also see the blue shade in the capped brood comb. Queen bee is supposed to be blue & by any chance if I get to photograph I will definitely share with you all!! I have heard of the mysterious blue & green coloured honey from Ribeauville in Alsace, North West of France gathered by the candy loving bees from the sugary waste of M&Ms. But I did not see blue honey bee babies before!! That too fully blue.. how coooolll.

This was found on my late friend Dr. Achaiah’s backyard, who was very passionate about the nature & its beings, so I have nick named it as “Achaiah’s blue baby bee”!!

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The cream coloured waxy substance in the h  ive is the Royal jelly (aka bee’s milk) secreted from the glands in the heads of worker bees, is the honey bee secretion that is used in the nutrition of larvae, as well as adult queens. However, it is fed to queen bee though out her live & to all larvae in the colony for the first three days, regardless whether they are destined to become drones (males), workers (sterile females), or queens (fertile females). It is also is the secret of queen bee’s longevity (4 – 5 years compared to one season for the workers). It is supposed to possess magical properties & used as a general health tonic, for fighting the effects of aging, & for boosting the immune system.

Bees in the Desert – Dubai

Dubai is one of the emirates or states in UAE(United Arab Emirates), in the Middle East which is portrayed larger than life… ever increasing in popularity as tourist destination, shopper’s paradise and foodies dream. A master piece in its own right, practically showcasing every cultures and nations of the world in a nutshell. It’s a place which does not have any natural resource, but has everything thanks to the futuristic ruler. The cleanliness is eye catching and the Burg Khalif stands tall as if policing the whole emirate. Never ending tide of tourists & visitors and, the weeked trip to Dubai mall, the largest mall in the world would remind one of factory workers milling out after the evening siren. I first passed through Dubai way back in 1991 on my way to Abu Dhabi. From then to now Dubai has come a long way…But not until this millennium my visits are becoming more frequent and stay are longer. What fascinated me more about Dubai than all the concrete structure is the ever increasing bird population and some insects like butterflies and bugs. Early morning Birds chirping in Middle East is music to my ears, against witnessing the ever dwindling bird population in South India.

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Raised in Western Ghats of India my fascination of Mother Nature is insatiable. I had three different experiences in 50 days and I want to share one of my most incredible experiences…

Paddy (rice) pollination is generally considered done by wind or self pollination. It always bothered me because my parents told me it’s done by bees. I always wanted to see the source of paddy pollination & I was not even sure if such small paddy flowers contained/hosted any nectar too. During the paddy flowering season there used to be a special kind of honey which is little darker and thick which was normally preserved for the home consumption. Unfortunately then unlike now I was more interested in eating than worrying about the source. Thanks to my granddaughter, during October – November 2013, I had the privilege of spending 50 straight days in Dubai. Every morning I spent more than an hour in the lawn with the new born acquiring free supply of vitamin D and getting rid of her jaundice. Now I will let my pictures tell you their own stories… taking these pictures were very, very tricky and I wish I was a better photographer and used professional camera… better luck next time…

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The bees often used to make me laugh… the grass stalk is so small and the flower are so tiny-tiny it’s like comparing elephant with a mouse. The bees coiled/wound around the stalk and sucked the nectar from flower. What an ingenious feat!! Then while unwinding most of then lost the balance and fell on the ground… its so funny like albatross running before taking off… my dear old Mother Nature never ceases to surprise me.

Wild Honey bee : A tragic story

After my previous article on wild honey thought it would be appropriate to write about a real incident which my husband witnessed. It was in back in 1991. when we were refugees from Kuwait, and my husband was travelling from Madikeri to Virajpet in an open top Jeep. When he was nearing a small village called Kakotuparmbu, he noticed something on the side of the road ahead, a human like figure rolling/wriggling on the ground close to the road with what appeared to be a cloud over it. At first he thought someone must be drunk and sleeping….. or perhaps someone is sick. When he neared the person he wanted to stop and check to see if he could help..suddenly, he realized that the person on the ground was been attacked by swarm of thousands of wild bees, and he got scared because he was driving an open jeep and there was no where to hide if they were to attack him.

The person appeared to be an old tribal lady and was screaming in pain. The cry was heart wrenching. my husband looked at the back of the Jeep for a blanket or bed-sheet or any material that he could use to either shield himself as he went out, or to at least throw at her while he could go get help. If he got out he would be attacked by the angry bees too. A real catch 22 situation. There were no houses nearby. My husband, even though had all the intention of helping could not provide immediate assistance. Instead, he drove away into the next town and when he reached the nearest shop and sight of some people, he stopped and narrated them what was happening and requested if someone could come help. They did go back to help her but by then it was little late. They shifted her to the Virajpet hospital where she succumbed to the bee stings. It haunted him for a long time and he would wake up some times in the middle of the night… he would say any time I think of it or dream of it I feel like electricity pass through my body… I can still hear her cry… I wish I could help her in some way. May be there was something I could do.

Because someone was killed or attacked by the wild bees, we cannot brand the wild (or domesticated) bees to be bad killers. They attack only when they or their territory is disturbed. It can be a broken branch or someone or something trying to get the honey out. Sometimes the mischief mongers will throw stones and run away or easiest and the most effective disturbance is reflecting the sun light through mirror. For some obvious reason the bees gets real agitated. Most of the time it is children who do it for fun without realizing the consequences. Unfortunately the one who disturbed will run away but someone innocently walking nearby will pay the price like the tribal lady.

The place where the lady was attacked, there are many bee hives but not on burga tree but on wild jackfruit tree… perhaps a variety most of you have not heard of. In Coorg it is called “adina chakke” (the normal one is called chakke). It is much smaller in size which fits in the palm, almost the size of a bread fruit. It has small yellow fruit arils. And the seeds like a bird’s egg. The trees are too tall and unlike the other jackfruit the fruit does not grow on the stem but grows on top of the tree on canopy among the leaves. The arils are half the size of thumb. It is smooth and tastes sourish-sweet and you can put couple of arils in mouth at a time!! The fruit does not contain any sticky substance and all the arils are stuck to the center inedible rind of the fruit. When ripe or when the monkey or the birds eat them, the fruit or seed will fall to the ground. Fruit is seasonal. Inside the white jacket the seed has a slightly thicker coating. Unlike the normal jackfruit seed, when dry you can simply remove the coating and eat them raw. It tastes pretty good. Haven’t eaten hem in ages. Any time walking under the tree we would search for the seed and eat them. It is another kind of tree favourite to the wild honey bees. I will post the pictures of the tree later. The adinachakke is not deciduous and there are too many leaves on the canopy. So its little difficult to photograph the fruits.