Anant Chaturdashi: Jains practice forgiveness, Hindus immerse Ganesha

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 27: For Hindus and across India, the past 10 days have filled homes, temples and the streets with colorful and vivid Ganeshotav figures, offerings of sweet modak treats and prayers to the beloved deity. Today, thousands of figures of Lord Ganesh are carried to rivers, lakes and other bodies of water in singing and dancing processions, to complete a final ritual for Ganesh Chaturthi. Today is known as Anant Chaturdashi—the day that Lord Ganesha departs, until next year’s festival.

Did you know? Lokmanya Tilak (1856-1920 CE) changed Ganesh Chaturthi from a private to a public event, to “bridge the gaps between Brahmins and non-Brahmins.”

On Anant Chaturdashi, Hindus carry Ganesh statues to bodies of water for immersion. In parts of India, a special bowl containing milk, curd, jaggery, honey and ghee is meant to symbolize an “Ocean of Milk.” (Wikipedia has details.) A thread containing 14 knots—and representing Lord Anant—is swirled through the milk mixture, and then tied to the right arm (for a man) or the left arm (for a woman). The Anant thread is kept tied to the arm for 14 days.

The legend behind Anant Chaturdashi tells of a woman named Sushila and her husband, Kaundinya. While journeying, Sushila came across a group of women performing “Anant’s Vow,” which included, among other things, the 14-knot string tied to the arm. Sushila took the vow, and she and Kaundinya became very wealthy—until Kaundinya doubted the power of Sushila’s thread and threw it into the fire. Courses turned, and the couple came to live in extreme poverty. Finally, Kaundinya realized his error and attempted penance. After much effort, Kaundinya realized that Vishnu was Anant. Vishnu promised Kaundinya that if he would make a 14-year vow, his sins would be forgiven and he would obtain wealth and happiness, once again.


Jains observe Anant Chaturdashi as the end of das lakshan parva, or Paryushana—the eight-day festival of meditation, fasting and purification. Many adherents take measures to observe all religious restrictions on Anant Chaturdashi (fasting, observing the 10 Virtues, etc.), and temples are filled with Jains in prayer and meditation. The faithful ask forgiveness of family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and enemies, with some offering puja to the Tirthankars (spiritual exemplars).


Authorities are issuing warnings in anticipation of possible conflicts between the Muslim Eid al-Adha (Sept. 23, sunset) and Ganesh Chaturthi (Sept. 17-27). (Times of India has the story.) As both are major holidays for their respective religions, authorities urge groups to keep to themselves and take respective measures, such as keeping Anant processions on traditional routes.

This year, more than five Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states of India have banned the sale of meat during the Jain festival of Paryushana and, in some regions, on Anant Chaturdashi. (Hindustan Times reported.) The slaughter and sale of meat, fish and poultry has been banned during these festival days, and hotels and restaurants may not serve any non-vegetarian dishes.



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