Review by Sharon St Joan
The book Ganesha, The Auspicious…The Beginning, written by Shakunthala Jagannathan and her daughter Nanditha Krishna, opens with a scene of cosmic dimensions – cosmic, infinite, and yet profoundly charming and down-to-earth.
It seems that among the world’s faiths, only Hinduism can span the farthest reaches of the universe while remaining close to home and endearing, all at the same time.
The book opens with the long, long night of Brahma. The previous world has ended, in an event of great destruction, and Lord Brahma has been sleeping. There was total darkness and infinite, undisturbed peace.
Then, with a faint rustling, the beginning of a new dawn arrived. In the Hindu way of thought, creation is eternal and time is cyclical; every ending is followed by a new beginning.
Through the peace of the night, suddenly there emerged a sound — an immense, beautiful cosmic sound, followed by a soft, gentle light. The sound was the single syllable OM, which is itself the holy presence of the Great God.
The Great God called a meeting with the three Gods of the Hindu Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, and he appointed Brahma to be the creator of the new world. However, Brahma was confused and did not know how to go about such a monumental task. He meditated on the Great God, in the form of OM. Out of the sound of the syllable OM, the Great God brought forth the four Vedas, the four early sacred texts of the Hindu faith. Brahma, receiving the knowledge contained in these great books, was then empowered to create the present world in which we live, and many other worlds besides.
Those who especially worship Ganesha believe that it is the God Ganesha who is the embodiment of the syllable OM. He is the first Word and the first Cause. Ganesha is the much-beloved elephant-headed God, who brings good fortune, success, a happy, blessed life, and who overcomes all obstacles.
As the first light of the New Age began to shine, Ganesha appeared against the horizon, blowing on his conch the powerful sound of OM, and dancing a wild, joyful dance in celebration of the new dawn. Then Ganesha explained to the three assembled Gods that he was the Universe itself. They understood that they must first meditate on Ganesha before praying to any other deities, and this practice is still followed today by the faithful.
The three Gods then sang praises to Ganesha as the Ultimate Reality, who is Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva – and who is the Supreme and Eternal Brahman. Then the present universe dawned.
This book about Ganesha gives a beautiful, enlightening, and inspiring view of this delightful God, who is adored throughout India, in all regions and among people of all backgrounds.
Shakunthala Jagannathan was born on January 11, 1927 and passed away in 2000.
As Deputy Director General and Regional Director of the Department of Tourism, she extended to India’s visitors and tourists the same warm and welcoming atmosphere for which she was so well known to her friends and family. Her writing also exemplifies a kind and loving presence, as well as a deep, spiritual understanding.
Nanditha Krishna, her daughter and an art historian, has written a great many books and articles about India’s art, culture, and society. As Director of the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation, she has set up the C.P. Art Centre, the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Institute of Indological Research, the Saraswathi Kendra Centre for children, the Grove School, the CPR Environmental Education Centre, as well as being involved in the governance of several other schools and institutions. For more complete information, please visit http://www.nandithakrishna.in/
Ganesha The Auspicious…The Beginning is available on Amazon. Click here.
Top photo: Wikimedia Commons / Original uploader was Buddhipriya at en.wikipedia. / Four-armed Gaṇeśa. Miniature of Nurpur school, circa 1810. Museum of Chandigarh. / “This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.” / http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ganesha_Nurpur_miniature_circa_1810_Dubost_p64.jpg
Second photo: Photographer: Quadell / “Seated Ganesha 12th-13th century Hoysala dynasty Chloritic schist H: 88.6 W: 53.7 D: 33.7 cm Halebid, Karnataka, India. This sculpture displays the ornate carving and exuberant decoration characteristic of art created under the Hoysala dynasty (1042–1346).”