Hinduism Series: When Ganesha Speaks - Of Prayers, Omens and New Beginnings

Let’s begin with an incident that took place in Pudupettai, Chennai more than 5 decades ago.

A Great Uncle of mine had been told to visit a non descript shrine to Ganesha, the remover of obstacles to help him resolve an obstacle facing him - He had recently had a bad fall leading to a broken leg that forced him to quit his job as a supervisor at an Udupi Restaurant in Chennai. And as a result, he was thinking about what to do next in terms of work.

A deeply religious man (a hallmark of our family, right from my own grandfather, to his brothers, and to the overall family that lives today), he thought nothing about this and went straight to the temple.

And the Vignahartha spoke...

As he finished his circumambulation around the God and made his out, he almost immediately ran into a broker standing "waiting" just outside the temple who told him about two properties that were up for grabs. Taking it as an omen and answer to his prayers, he went ahead, saw the offered deals and finally started a restaurant on one of these properties ultimately paving the way for our extended Family's success and presence in the Restaurant space in Chennai.

This started my Family's Tryst with the Vara Siddhi Vinayaka (Ganesha) Temple in Pudupettai, Chennai which still continues today.

Now, it is said that Ganesha is an easy God to pray to. In the sense that even beginners to various Sadhanas (a religious vow to perform a certain type of ritual or prayer chant) experience some results rather quickly.

While this is also dependent on various other factors, from my personal experience I can to an extent attest to one thing, whether what you pray for comes true or not, if you look carefully, you'll definitely notice certain omens and signs that I think are "messages" from Ganapati.

And this something that our Pudupettai Ganpa (as I refer to him) does rather strongly, sometimes in a very mischievous manner.

Pudupettai Ganpa. Small in size, Big Big Personality
The Beautiful Utsava Murthy (Brought out for Ceremonial Processions and Festivals)

A few instances come to mind..

We usually visit our Ganpa on important dates - Birthdays, Deepavali, New Year’s etc. or when we have important milestones approaching. Right from my Great Uncle's Prayer to my Father's 60th Birthday Celebrations, and my own Wedding Invitation, we usually pay a visit to him and pray for the successful completion of said event. And we have been associated with the Temple for a long time now both as participants and in our capacity, as donors.

So a couple of years ago, it was around the time of my Brother's birthday which comes in January during the Pongal Festival. This an auspicious time to visit temples in general in Tamil Nadu. Now while we do go and visit him during such events, the dates are not exactly fixed. For instance, we may go on the "star birthday" of the family member or in my case, stopped going for almost 8 years since I haven’t usually been in Chennai during the time of my birthday since I finished my schooling (Covid changed that for the better in a rather ironic way).

Now for whatever reason, my brother didn’t go to visit Ganpa that day and the thought was that the Family would go the next week or so on the day of his star birthday. That evening post celebrations, we got a call from the Priest of the Temple asking if it was my brother's birthday and why he hadn't come. Now this isn’t something that the Priest usually remembers in general considering the 1000s of people who visit the shrine nor was it a day where he would have much time to think about anything else since there would be 100s of pilgrims on that festival day. Essentially, our Ganpa was enquiring about my brother.

If I remember correctly, my brother was sent to the temple with some extra offerings in that week itself after my parents decided that it was a little too strong a message for a birthday event.

I found this hilarious but then it did strike me that my brother had been given a Ganpati mantra upadesha as part of some astrological remedy. I guess after a year or two of this, Ganpa had decided to show some signs and convey his birthday wishes as well.

There are several such stories but the next one is my own.

Now, like I mentioned above, I think some of these signs start being noticed post a period of Sadhana /ritual practise. In my own case, I had been asked to chant any Ganesha stotra daily by my Father simply from a "luck" perspective. In addition to this, I had also started reciting a mantra on Ganesha as Kshipra Prasada (one who fulfils wishes quickly). Similar to the mantra chanted daily by my brother but with an important difference, I had not been initiated into the Mantra while he had been. So my ritual practise was a very basic chant with no particular outcome desired. And this particular combo has been part of my daily prayers /sandhya for more than 1.5 years now.

Anyways, over the last few months, I have been given an opportunity to change teams at my current company and this would indeed open up newer opportunities in the future. As part of this change, I'd be getting into a more client facing role and while I'm no introvert, engaging in a "relationship management" and advisory role would be quite difficult especially if one has spent the better part of 5 years in an internal strategy role.

Now I had been to Bangalore a few days before this article been written for a presentation and while on my way to the client, various things were on my mind including how I'd fare in making a first impression with one of my company's most prestigious clients. For a brief while, I was rather zoned out and when we were near the client's place, the car slowed down just a little bit (this was somewhere near Indiranagar). This brought me out of my stupor and I chanced to look out of the window. And what do I see?

A Ganesha Temple. And in that brief moment of time that I may have passed it off as coincidence, I saw the name of the Temple on the Gopuram /Temple Tower.

Vara Siddhi Vinayaka

For someone who has never seen this name in Tamil Nadu (even though there are more temples with the same name for the deity) over these many years, to have managed to spot a twin more than 300 km away and that too written in English (I would not have noticed at all if it had been in Kannada).... You can imagine my expression. The Pudupettai Big Boss had made his presence felt. Needless to say my presentation went well. How can it not when you get this kind of confidence boost from an old friend?

Looks like I'll have to pay him a visit when I get back home to Chennai in June.

A third incident.

This time, it doesn’t involve our Pudupettai Ganpa.

My father and I are habitual walkers and love going on regular walks(A couple of articles on our walks: https://www.pradhyumna.com/things-to-do-in-chennai-adyar-eco-park-aka-tol/and https://www.pradhyumna.com/things-to-do-in-chennai-anna-nagar-tower-park/). Its something that helped kept us sane during the Covid lockdowns. Now one such walk (when restrictions had been lifted to an extent), we were in Adyar, Chennai near one of our Family's Restaurants. The aim was to finish our walk and then inspect the Kitchens since there were still some teething issues post the lifting of restrictions (Restaurants were still forced to shut shop by 9:30 pm). So it was a bit uncomfortable discussing the return to normal business. About 500 m from the Restaurant, we noticed a Ganapati temple. Now Chennai has 100s of such temples so initially we didn’t think of much as we neared it. Just outside the entrance however, both of us were more than mildly surprised to see the name - Kshipra Prasada. Now I cannot stress how rare this particular name is and it can be attested to the fact this temple is not managed by the local Tamizhans but rather Kannadigas /Malayalis. At that time, there was some intense relief felt and we carried on our way to the Restaurant.

Hard times come and go. Most Prayers ask for specific benefits from the Gods..

But in my experience, Ganesha, The Destroyer of Obstacles may not usually overcome these obstacles for us (though he can do so easily). But more often than not, he quite strongly shows us that He's there in our vicinity watching out.