The December gift-giving festival called Pancha Ganapati
Pancha Ganapati, a five-day festival celebrated from December 21 through 25, has become a favorite in homes all over the world. The winter solstice has always been a festive time of year in all countries, religions and among Hindus especially, for it is a traditional season for the worship of Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed lord of culture and the arts.
In the Sri Lankan tradition, for example, thirty days are dedicated to Ganesha worship during December-January in the festival called Markali Pillaiyar. In Vedic astrology this time of year marks the end of the sun's southward movement and the beginning of its movement north. Pancha Ganapati is a Hindu expression of this natural season of worship, gift-giving and celebration.
During each of the five days, a special sadhana, spiritual discipline, is focused upon by the entire family. Because of the festival's importance as a new beginning and mending of all past mistakes, a festive shrine is created in the main living room of the home. At the center is placed a large wooden or bronze five-faced statue of Lord Pancha Ganapati. If this is not available, any large picture or statue of Lord Ganesha will do. Each morning the children dress or decorate Ganesha anew in a different color: golden yellow on December 21, then royal blue, ruby red, emerald green and finally brilliant orange. These are the colors of His five powers, or shaktis.
Each day a tray of sweets, fruits and incense is offered to Lord Ganapati, often prepared and presented by the children. Chants, songs and bhajans are sung in His praise. After puja, the abundant, diverse sweets are shared by one and all as prasada. Each day gifts are given to the children, who place them before Pancha Ganapati to open only on the fifth day. Gifts need not be extravagent or expensive; they should be within the means of each family. Handmade presents are by far the most precious. Ganesha does not want gift-giving to promote Western commercialism but to further the great Hindu culture. Clearly, killer games should never be given. Greeting cards, ideally made by the children, offer Hindu art and wisdom, such as verses from the Vedas. Here is how the five-day celebration is observed.
December 21, yellow: The family sadhana for the first day of Pancha Ganapati is to create a vibration of love and harmony among immediate family members. The day begins early, and the entire family works together to design and decorate the shrine with traditional symbols, rangoli, lamps and more. Then a grand puja is performed invoking the spirit of Pancha Ganapati in the home. The sadhana of the day now begins. The family sits together for the purpose of easing any strained relationships that have arisen during the year. They make amends one with another for misdeeds performed, insults given, mental pain and injuries caused and suffered. When forgiveness is offered to all by one and all, they speak of each other's good qualities and resolve that in the days ahead they will remember the futility of trying to change others and the practicality of changing one's self to be the silent example for all to witness. Gifts are then exchanged and placed unopened before Pancha Ganapati. As family harmony is important to all Hindus, this sadhana must be taken very, very seriously.
December 22, blue: Day two is devoted to creating a vibration of love and harmony among neighbors, relatives and close friends and presenting them with heartfelt. The sadhana of the day is to offer apologies and clear up any misunderstandings that exist. Relatives and friends in far-off places are written to or called, forgiveness is sought, apologies made and tensions released. Gifts received are placed unopened before Pancha Ganapati.
December 23, red: The sadhana for the third day is to create a vibration of love and harmony among business associates, the casual merchant and the public at large. This is the day for presenting gifts to fellow workers and customers and to honor employers and employees with gifts and appreciation. The sadhana today is the settling of all debts and disputes. Gifts received are placed unopened before the Deity.
December 24, green: The sadhana of day four is to draw forth the vibration of joy and harmony that comes from music, art, drama and the dance. Family, relatives and friends gather for satsang to share and enjoy their artistic gifts. Then all sit together before Ganesha, Patron of Arts and Guardian of Culture, discussing Hindu Dharma and making plans to bring more cultural refinements into the home. More gifts are placed before Pancha Ganapati.
December 25, orange: The family sadhana for the final day is to bring forth love and harmony within all three worlds. Because of sadhanas well performed during the first four days, the family is now more open and aware of Ganesha's grace, and their love for Him is now overflowing. On this day the entire family experiences an outpouring of love and tranquility from the great God Himself. His blessings fill the home and the hearts of everyone within it, inspiring them anew for the coming year.
We can clearly see that religion and tradition are interlocked in the annals of time back many thousands of years, and how tradition moves forward from one generation to the next, setting the patterns for humanity. Every time-honored tradition loyally serves mankind, and by following it through the context of one of the great religions of the world, one cannot go astray. Jai Ganapati! May He lead us always along the right path.
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