SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 7: The colorful and auspicious days of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival culminate today on the Hindu holiday of Anant Chaturdashi. (Dates vary by region and by family; some devotees worship Ganesh for 11 days, instead of 10.)
On Anant Chaturdashi, Ganesh statues—from the massive to the tiny, the ornate to the plain—are marched in procession to a nearby body of water, for submersion. Singing and dancing often accompanies the processions through which Ganesh is bid farewell until next year. (Wikipedia has details.) With recent concern rising over the toxicity of the figures being submerged into rivers and other bodies of water, alternatives have been introduced: reusable figures, environmentally-friendly figures and the suggestion of community pools, for the safe submersion of Ganesh statues.
THE ANANT VOW:
THE LEGEND OF SUSHILA AND KAUNDINYA
While Lord Ganesh claims the spotlight in most regions on Anant Chaturdashi, another legend prevails, too: the legend of the Anant Vow. The story tells of a girl named Sushila, whose stepmother troubled her so much that she left home with her love, a man named Kaundinya. During their journey, the pair came to a river, where Kaundinya took a bath and Sushila spoke to a group of gathered women. The women were worshipping “Anant,” a ritual that required specific prepared foods, offerings and the tying of a string on the wrist. The string is known as “Anant,” composed of 14 knots and worn for 14 years. It’s believed that a faithful vow will bring wealth and divinity. Sushila took the vow.
Sushila and Kaundinya accrued wealth, until one day, when Kaundinya learned of Sushila’s vow. Kaundinya took the string from Sushila’s wrist and burned it; trouble and poverty ensued. When Kaundinya underwent serious penance and searching, and finally was met by Vishnu. Kaundinya realized that Vishnu was Anant, or “the Eternal One.” Kaundinya made the vow.
In honor of Lord Vishnu, deities invoke his blessings by praying to him today. Some begin or renew the Anant vow.
GANESH CHATURTHI & ANANT CHATURDASHI:
NOT JUST FOR HINDUS
Alongside Hindus, Jains observe Anant Chaturdashi for Lord Anant and often participate in processions of the day. Muslims in some regions of India, too, observe the entire festival of Ganesh Chaturthi by taking part in pujas and cultural activities, emphasizing love over separation. (Times of India reported.)