THE SACRED SONGS OF INDIA VOLUME SEVEN: HYMNS TO GANESA, THE DARLING DEITY makes a slight departure from the predecessor volumes.
Sacred Songs of India Volume One contained songs of mystics intoxicated with God in the form of Krishna or Rama.
Subsequent volumes have presented songs of saints obsessed with other images as well, like Siva, Sakti, Subrahmania, etc.
This volume presents the songs of sages on Ganesa, the darling deity.
The songs on Ganesa included in this volume span over twenty centuries: from Vedic period to the twentieth century.
They are also in diverse languages of India: Sanskrit, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu.
The most ancient songs (in Sanskrit) are anonymous.
Songs whose authorship is identifiable are those of the poet saints: Agastya, the doyen of Tamil mystics, Veda Vyasa, the undisputed creator of the 18 puranas, Avvaiyar, known as the grandmother of Tamil literature and a God-realised soul, Sankaracharya, the famous Vedantic philosopher from Kerala, the Maharashtra saints: Jnaneswar, Eknath, Tukaram and Samartha Ramadas, the Karnataka saints: Purandharadasa and Kanakadasa, the Tamil saints: Arunagirinathar, Oottukkadu Venkatasubba Iyer, Ramalinga Swamigal, Nilakantha Sivan, Harikesanallur Mutahiah Bhagavatar, Papanasam Sivan, Subramania Bharati, Hindi poets: Tulsidas and Swami Brahmananda, Narayana Guru, the Kerala saint and Tyagaraja and Muttuswami Dikshitar, members of the Carnatic music Trinity.
The songs presented in this volume are a veritable ocean of devotion centred on the beloved image of God Ganesa.
Sacred Songs of India, Volume Seven, like its predecessor volumes will be a limitless repertoire for all artistes in music, drama and ballet.
About the Author:
Vadakamadom Krishna Iyer Subramanian (b. 1930), Kerala, India) is an eminent scholar, whose life mission is to present to the world the treasure of ancient India, in the fields of art, literature, philosophy and religion.
He has already translated several ancient texts into English.
These include: Savndaryalahari, Sivananda-lahari, Sacred Songs of India, Maxims of Chanakya, Sri Rudraprasna, Wondrous Whispers of Wisdom from Ancient India.
As a consultant for holistic health and spiritual development, he has spelt out the Hindu regimens in this regard in his popular book: The Holistic Way to Health, Happiness and Harmony.
Subramanian's prolific literary output covers a variety of subjects ranging from astrology to art. He has been an astropalmic counsellor for over 35 years.
A retired officer of the Indian Audit and Accounts Service (which he joined in 1953), Subramanian is also a reputed painter, who has held 22 one-man shows and whose paintings (some of them in the Chandigarh Museum) have won wide acclaim from leading art critics of India.
Subramanian who has travelled extensively in India, now lives in the United States of America.
This series of Sacred Songs of India, comprising the devotional lyrics of the mystic saints from different regions of India and different periods of its history are hymns of praise to God, in diverse manifestations of Divinity.
God is Spirit and cannot be easily conceived except through images and symbols, which have evolved over centuries, out of myth and legend, and mystic vision and experience of spiritually evolved sages.
In India, six manifestations of God are worshipped with love and devotion. These are:
1. Ganesa, the Darling Deity
2. Krishna, who is also Rama, incarnation of Vishnu
3. Siva, the Auspicious One
4. Sakti, the Divine Mother
5. Kumara or Subramania, the embodiment of youth, beauty and valour
6. Sun, the giver of life-sustaining light.
Different spiritual aspirants or mystics choose the image which turns them on spiritually, enabling them to attain blissful beatitude.
Thus, in Sacred Songs of India Volume One, I presented the songs of ten mystics who were intoxicated with God in the form of Krishna or Rama.
Subsequent volumes have dealt with saints obsesses with other images like Siva, Sakti, Subramania etc.
In this volume I am presenting the songs of the mystics on Ganesa, the Darling Deity.
They hymns included date back to the Vedic period (2500 B.C.) and subsequent periods extending upto the modern age, viz. the twentieth century.
At this stage, I have to make certain clarifications about image worship in general and the image of Ganesa in particular.
As Houston Smith observes in his book, World's Religions, "It is obtuse to confuse Hinduism's images with idolatry, and their multiplicity with polytheism. They are runways from which the sense-encumbered human spirit can rise for its "flight of the alone to the alone".
"A symbol such as a multi-armed image can represent God's power; myths can plumb depths that are closed to the intellect; parables and legends present ideals in ways that make hearers long to embody them.
"The value of these things lies in their power to recall our minds from the world's distractions to the thought of God and God's love".
The six (interchangeable and interconnected) images of God mentioned earlier have inspired hundreds of poet sages to pour out their love and devotion in ecstatic poetry.
They have also enabled many to realise God.
The image of Ganesa, the elephant-faced infant has had a universal appeal and God is worshipped in this form by all, before commencing any important work or conducting any important function like wedding or other rituals.
God, in this form, is supposed to destroy all obstacles which stand in the way of successful achievement of tasks.
The hymns to Ganesa included in this volume span over twenty centuries.
They have been selected from the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas and from the works of sages and mystic saints from all regions of India.
Thus the hymns are in many languages:
Sanskrit, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.
These hymns are an expression of spiritual experience, an outpouring of pure love and devotion to God, inspired by the patently grotesque and paradoxical image of the Elephant-faced Darling Deity, which represented, in the mystic vision of the sages, the Pranava sound, AUM, the symbol of creation, protection and destruction and whose childlike-giving goodness endeared their hearts.
Loving God intensely is the spiritual path of devotees who seek to realise God through Bhakti (devotion).
Different facets of this love are adopted by mystics.
1. Bridal mysticism of treating God as the lover or beloved
The image of God as Krishna, the eternal lover caters to this attitude of the devotee, as also the image of Kumara or Subramania, the embodiment of youth, beauty and valour.
2. Treating God as a parent
The images of God as Siva or Sakti, the Divine Mother fulfil this craving.
3. Treating God as a child and expressing parental love
The image of the infant deity, Ganesa answers to this need as also the image of child Krishna.
4. Treating God as a friend in need
5. Treating God as a Master
The last two attitudes are possible with all images of God, one remembers that elephant is an object of perennial charm, which we, especially children, never tire of looking at. (The other two similar objects are the moon and the ocean!*)
Ganesa evokes the child in the devotee, while He himself is in child form.
He is the symbol of AUM, the source of all creation. Yet he is not only the root of creation but of creativity as well.
The Vedic chant extols Him as the Poet of poets.
Ganesa represents unalloyed bliss, goodness and knowledge.
Let us dip into the ocean of devotion, bequeathed to us by the sages, centred on this beloved image of God, and savour the resultant satisfaction.
V. K. Subramanian
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