Residents of a tiny Himalayan town in Uttarakhand have begun tom-toming a belief they have largely held in private for generations: Lord Ganesha was born in their scenic locality.
This time around, people of Kailasu in high-altitude Uttarkashi district are celebrating an extended and colourful version of the annual festival dedicated to the elephant-headed god. Ganesh Utsav is traditionally not a big event in the valleys-lined region dotted with waterbodies, but its 2016 edition has got an added fervour in more ways than one.
What used to pass as a 12-hour ritual is now a religious revelry lasting 10 days — much like how it is observed in places down-country like Maharashtra, Goa, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Starting September 5, residents of a dozen villages around Kailasu carry Ganesha idols — sometimes in motor vehicles — to the beat of ethnic drums and chanting of mantras. Every day, the villagers converge at a vintage temple on the banks of a neighbourhood lake they consider holy.
For, it is in freshwater Dodital that the lord’s mother, Parvati, took bath routinely, according to the natives of Kailasu, which is around 4,400 feet above sea level.
“Yes, Ganesha was born in Kailasu,” says Kamal Rawat, a local resident. “We want global recognition for it as the birthplace of the lord.”
“Over the years, we were silent about this belief. Now we want to spread the word,” he told HT.
Mythological texts have different tales about the birth of the widely-revered Ganesha, invariably mentioned as a son of Shiva and Parvati. The popular story goes that Parvati gave him life after moulding a boy’s figure out of clay to guard their house while on her daily trips to bathe at the pond.
Legend has it that Shiva, once on returning to icy Kailash, found an unfamiliar boy not letting him inside the abode. Infuriated, Shiva chopped off the boy’s head. When Parvati learned about the incident, she asked her husband to bring the boy back to life. “This is how an elephant head was placed on the boy’s body,” says Rawat. “And he was known as Ganesha.”
Dodital is close to Kailasu. On its bank is the white-walled Ganesha temple with sloping roofs typical of the region’s conventional architecture.
History student Pankaj Khuswal, who is collecting evidences to authenticate the claim of fellow villagers in Kailasu, notes that residents have also coined a slogan: Ganesh Janmbhoomi Dodital Kailasu, Asi Ganga urgam Annapurna mata niwasu (Ganesha’s birthplace is Dodital Kailasu, where the Asi Ganga river flows and Goddess Annapurna lives).
“Ganesha is called Dodi King in the area,” he says. A book by 20th-century Vedanta scholar Swami Tapovan refers to Kailasu Kailasu, which falls in the central Himalayas, is the place where Lord Shiva and Parvati lived, Khuswal adds.
Local legislator Vijaypal Sajwan has extended support to the Ganesha-related efforts of residents. He has also donated money to renovate the Ganesha temple alongside the Dodital.
Neighboring Rudraprayag district, too, has a Ganesha temple located in Munkatia on the route to the Kedarnath shrine. Residents of that village believe Munkatia is where Shiva cut off Ganesha’s head—mund meaning head and katia referring to cut.
Pilgrims visiting Kedarnath often visit the Munkatia temple of Ganesha, predominantly considered as a remover of obstacles.