Ganesha Chathuri: The Elephant-Headed God's Birthday
Created from sandalpaste by Goddess Parvati in one myth, Lord Ganesha is the popular guardian of all semi-divine spirits, remover of obstacles and overseer of omens. Each year, we await his birthday on the fourth tithi of the bright fortnight in the Hindu month of
Bhadrapad. In 2009, this falls on August 23rd.
OM Ekadantaya Namah!
Also called Vighneshvara, meaning, Remover of Obstacles, Ganehsa is the one to whom we pray for easy
passage and before initiating any endeavor spiritual or mundane. Honored as the chronicler of the sacred texts of Hinduism (he broke
off one of his tusks, eka danta, so that the scriptures could be recorded) and as the protector of those who worship him, he is ally to many in the fight for spiritual truth in the phenomenal world. It is said that
on his birthday, the most auspicious worship is conducted at noon.
To listen to a mantra for worship and praise of Ganesha
to use in your own puja ceremony, click here.
Once you have invoked the presence of Lord Ganesha into your image established for worship, it is traditional to make offerings to the god... and twenty-one of everything is considered especially auspicious. This is a number representing our human condition: the five senses, five organs of action, five elements, and five vital airs, plus the quality of mind.
During puja, a favorite offering is modak, a special milk and coconut treat. To make this mithai (sweet), you may wish to try a family recipe or use your own adaptation, mixing in pistachios, raisins or whatever else suits your tastebuds! It is said that these little dumpling treasures bring happiness all around, adding joy and a sense of celebration to your puja.
But take heed! It is considered especially inauspicious to gaze upon the moon this night...and doing so may render one accused of a crime one did not commit. If you inadvertently look upon the evening sky during Ganesh Chathuri, the remedy is simple. Read or recite the story of the Syamantaka Mani (the Syamantaka Jewel).
Symbols & Iconography
Why the elephant head? Certainly, there are at least a couple of stories to explain this oddity, but one myth tells how Shiva came home one day and didn't realize that it was his own son guarding the doorway to their house. He quickly beheaded the mistaken intruder, but replaced it upon Parvati's all-consuming grief over his mistake. An elephant was the first north-facing sleeping creature they found, and their son thus came to wear the elephant countenance.
And what does that really signify? On the one hand, it is easy to see that everyone loves the playfulness and intelligence of elephants. These creatures are docile and unthreatening despite their enormous size, and they are vegetarians.
Philosophically, however, Ganesha's elephant head denotes the capacity we have on the spiritual journey to leave the mundane world and enter the world of unseen mysteries. In the mudgala purāṇam, one of Ganesha's two most sacred texts, his eight incarnations help devotees realize that All is One. The head is part of reality (some say it represents that which is outside of the self while others say it represents Atman), his body is part of reality (some say it represents one's egoic sense of self), and the two cojoined create all that exists in Truth.
And why does Ganesha have a rat for a mount? The rat (or mouse) is a symbol that lets us know how close to us Ganesh really is. He experiences life in the mundane world much in the same way as a rat does, up close and personal. Therefore, he understands our troubles and obstacles. In this way, with his head disconnected from the Maya of the world yet with intimate understanding of our difficulties, he can best discern the 'way out' and help guide us further on our journey.
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Why Donate? You Make a Difference...
is dedicated to promoting a vision of the world as a global community, alive in
its diversity, united in its essential humanity. We recognize the spark we all
share no matter what our address, be it New York
or Kolkata. Through open hearts,
surrendered egos, willingness, and a deep commitment, SHARANYA helps to create
a compassionate and strong, safe space for individuals of all backgrounds and
faiths to engage spirituality and explore the inner landscape toward
make all the difference as we work to keep engaged spirituality and a unique
spiritual expression of service viable in the world. At SHARANYA, our
Goddess Temple survives because of you, because of your support. For
all of the ways in which you love the Divine and make Her manifest, we
are deeply grateful.
Thank you for your
to making spirituality
a vehicle for social justice
Thank you for helping the spread of
in the world. Jai Maa!
* Can I make a donation for Maa's worship if I live outside the Bay Area or can't attend this month?
Absolutely. Should you wish to contribute to the worship, know that we
will call your name into circle so that your intention will be with Maa
and held by community in sacred space. We can also mail you a flower
from the ceremony to put on your altar if you desire. Just let us know
with your donation and be sure to provide a current mailing address.
all that we do, we seek to remember the united soul of humanity as we strive to
support an evolution of consciousness through engagement in the communities and
diversity of perspectives that promote sustainability of Earth and her
inhabitants. Today, in a culture in crisis, with dislocated global citizens,
the looming dark cloud of climate change, diseases of the heart and soul, and
other ills plaguing our planet, people are looking for a safe place to call
home; they are looking for community, for others who share their deep-felt
concerns and worries, and above all else, they are looking to find a family
where people are committed to making a better future through the hard work of
personal growth, community building, and service to others.
* I would like to offer flowers for Maa and Shiva.
Our mission is to empower seeds of change on personal, collective,
and planetary levels towards respect, responsibility, and the fullest awareness
of an interconnected, interrelated cosmic reality that promotes peace, truth,
and a (r)evolution of consciousness that works toward wholeness. We welcome any and all of your contributions to our efforts...join us!
Can I do that?
That would be wonderful! Whether or not you can attend,
offering flowers is a lovely way to share your devotion.
Puja itself means that we worship with flowers, doing so because the scent of blossoms reaches all...regardless of race, class, color, religion, gender and other such distinctions. Join us through your offering in a transformational, transcendent, and wholly embodied celebration of the Divine!
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Save the Date! 6th Annual Kali Puja Festival (10/17)
Join with us as part of SHARANYA's family, the Kaula and community, to celebrate Maa in all Her glory!
A special evening awaits...complete with a silent auction (goodies from India, yoga lessons, an astrology reading & more!) and raffle to win a flying tour by night over beautiful San Francisco.
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
And be sure to check out images and the unfolding story of puja from our last few annual events...
O Mother, Devī Tārā, Madam
She who saves me from calamity;
Refuge with Thee I seek from dawn 'til twilight—let me worship you
with the entirety of my
Ever art Thou, with smiling
lotus-like face and hands that hold a
bloody knife, a skull from
which to drink, a sweetly smelling lotus
flower and a sharpened sword.
My love pours out as I take you into my
You who grant all desires;
you who bestow favors; you who are the
ocean of kindness and
compassion; I pray to you—allow me your mercy
and the nectar of prosperity.
Mother, take away my fears.
Show me the snakes entwined in your
hair, and your tiger skin
garments. Tinkle your bells so that my
ears may hear you near and I
may gain comfort from their sounds. I
see the demons you hold,
their heads dripping with blood—do I know
Oh, Goddess Tārā, She who is
attained with difficulty—show me the
way as I take refuge with
Thee. Thou art the beginning and the end;
the ultimate point of
dissolution and creation; the shelter of All;
She who is sound, sight,
smell, taste and touch—I serve at your
Mother, there is none equal
to you. Those who try meet such death as
befits them. The wrathful
Ḍākinī, the demons, the most deadly of
tigers and creatures take flight
at the sound of your name and are
powerless to do wrong in your
You are surpassed by no one,
god or man; you are the beauty of the
Universe; the charm of the
faithful; the guide to Truth. Whosoever
worships you learns the
powers to stay the flow of waters deep and
Being pure and
self-controlled, I pray to you Mahā-Tārā, to grant me
the boons of your delight,
for the love of all creation and in the end...liberation.
- Adapted from the Nila Tantra
as inspired by Sir John Woodroffe's translation
in Hymns of the Goddess (Ganesh & Co.: Madras) 1973
Learn more about the offerings at our mandir... >>
Mudra of the Month
Padma (Lotus) Mudra
A mudra of the anahata chakra (heart center), this sacred gesture helps us in the work of spiritual transformation. In addition to cultivating prana in life-affirming ways and especially through the power of apas (water) and agni (fire) tattvas (elements), this mudra is also dynamic in the physical sense because one may actually open and close this lotus flower of the fingers in time to the rise and fall of breath.
To create padma mudra, begin in anjali mudra (prayer gesture) at the level of the heart. Keeping together the pinkies and thumbs from the tip of the fingers through the pads of the hands, gently breathe in to a count of four and expand the other fingers outward (as represented in the image included here). Draw in the palms to a more chalice-like shape as you conclude the inhalation. On the exhale, slowly return the fingers to anjali mudra, thus closing the lotus.
In using this mudra you will find a calming benefit. Other qualities cultivated through the practice inclusive of pranayama (breath work) include peacefulness, inner balance, a sense of connection to others, and compassion. You may wish to use padma mudra in your puja and ritual work just preceding a time of gratitude so that your heart may be tranquil and better aligned with the mind-body-spirit complex of your being.
Want to know more about our tradition? >>
Our Community Welcomes You
Interested in lending your love of Maa, your creativity, your inspiration to Kali Puja? Feel free to bring
us your ideas and energy. We have many ways for you to become
immediately and directly involved in a vibrant and growing spiritual
community, and look forward to your unique expression of joy in Her
name. We welcome your suggestions too; your experience, expertise, and
desire can inform many of the ways we do Her work in the world!
Click here to learn more about joining in the celebration of Her through SHARANYA...and be with us in cyberspace if you're not able to join us in person.
You can also get timely updates, notifications of events, and your mantra of the day by being part of our online world:
And of course, stay in touch with us in all the old-fashioned ways too! Were you forwarded this newsletter by a friend?
Click here to receive your own newsletter! >>
Upcoming Events & Community Offerings
Amavasya Satsang (8/21) 7-9pm New Moon - Evening of dhyana
(meditation), spiritual teachings, and/or ceremony at SHARANYA's Devi
Mandir - our home sanctuary. (Community celebration; extended spiritual
family and guests welcome.) RSVP requested.
SHARANYA's Kali Puja (8/30) Open to everyone. Come join us in worship of the Divine Mother, Goddess Kali Maa, by all Her names!
SHARANYA's Introduction to Daughters of Kali (8/30) Open to everyone!
Not in the San Francisco Bay Area?
you are not in the Bay Area or cannot attend events for any reason,
please join one of our online communities and participate in learning
more about Maa through...
A Wisdom School for Her Mysteries & Dedicated to
(R)evolutionary Shakta Tantra
Kali Vidya is offering a series of classes that you can work through independently or with your current worship circle.NEXT CLASS STARTS SEPTEMBER 1, 2009
All are welcome at our mandir (temple). Maa embraces all: sarvam sarvatmakam...
for everything is the essence of everything else.
Learn more about our work and worship... >>
Invocations from a Dark Moon Ritual
Element of Earth, sense of smell:
Everlasting Earth, Teacher of Persistence, and Giver of Tranquility in the physical world. You remind us of the sacredness of our senses and our physical body. Teach us to live rooted in daily practice. Be with us now, during our Dark Moon celebration.
Response: May Tranquility be with us this night.
Element of Water, sense of taste:
Everlasting Cycle, Teacher of Integrity and Giver of the Desire for Enlightenment -- distributing life force-- You take any form, yet remain consistent. You teach us what thirst is. Teach us to thirst for Enlightenment. Be with us now during our Dark Moon celebration.
Response: May Desire for Enlightenment be with us this night.
Element of Fire, sense of sight:
Everlasting Flame, Teacher of Transformation and Giver of Devotion -- energy of heat and light, you bring us vision, passion, and motivation -- You teach us to give and to receive. Teach us to live dedicated to Love. Be with us now during our Dark Moon celebration.
Response: May Devotion be with us this night.
Element of Air, sense of touch:
Everlasting breath of Divine, Teacher of Movement and Giver of Discernment -- You are the wind bringing freshness and clarity. You teach us to make good choices. Teach us to grow more aware of the Oneness of all being. Be with us now during our Dark Moon celebration.
Response: May Discernment be with us this night.
Element of Space, sense of hearing:
Everlasting Unity, Teacher of Gratitude and Giver of Faith -- you encompass all elements in the mystery of emptiness. Help us to trust your mystery as we live our daily lives in gratitude for all that is. Be with us now during our Dark Moon celebration.
Response: May Faith be with us this night.
These invocations offered by Jenna Bernardi, a practicing yogini, and High Priestess of
the emerging eclectic coven, The Wick, in
She began her Goddess journey at a workshop led by yoga and spirituality
teachers Shiva Rea and Rama Berch.
Learn more & join us in doing Her work in the world... >>
An Interview: Initiation of a Tattoo Artist
Recently, we had occasion to chat with Raven, a trained tattoo artist now working in Houston. Her story of apprenticeship in the profession and connection to Maa Kali throughout is inspiring...
When did you first come to know Maa Kali?
My first encounter with Maa in the specific form of Kali was while
meditating at a Pagan Pride Day in Fresno back in 2006, I believe. Members of
SHARANYA were present and assisted Chandra in holding an open circle
for all to attend and learn about Maa Kali. As I sat with eyes closed
and quietly reflected under guided meditation I realized that I was
looking into the mirror of my minds eye. As I peered at the image of
myself Maa emerged through my image and while shining almost blinding
in red and orange light with all of her adornments and weapons she
asked me “Do you recognize me? Maya blinds, but if you look close with
out fear you will find me, I am Your Mother."
At the time I did not
know what Maya (Chaos or Illusion) meant and I had never felt call to define the
Goddess by any specific name or image but I left that circle with such
a sense of connection and direction that it started me on a path that
has defined my life since that day.
How does your initiation as a tattoo artist compare to other spiritual initiations you have had?
My final initiation (as an apprentice tattoo artist) meant getting
my knuckles tattooed by the man that taught me my trade. The initiation
was done after a year and a half of working in the traditional tattoo
industry that is highly defined as a ”man’s world." This industry is
teaming with stereotypes of women as bad luck and as less talented than
our male counter parts. I was surrounded by five to ten men from my shop
and they all congratulated me while at the same time teasing me and
trying to figure out what the hell I was tattooing on my knuckles.
your knuckles are finished you are considered a “real” or bona fide
tattoo artist; you are accepting the mark of your trade for all to
see. In comparison, most spiritual initiations by far are more gender
neutral and much less taxing. Most obviously they are much less visible
to the naked eye. Making the decision to proudly wear both my devotion
to Maa and the mark of a tattoo artist on my hands was something not to
be taken lightly due to the still secretive nature of both our “pagan”
faiths and tattooing. Similarly when we as spiritual beings seek out
initiation into a social group, union or religious tradition we
understand that in any of them it takes hard work and determination
along with faith and courage.
How did you rely on Maa during your apprenticeship process?
I relied on Maa a lot in my apprenticeship. I constantly asked for
her guidance and her patience when dealing with aspects of my industry
that were still evolving (like sexual biases and hazing). I looked to
her and asked her for strength when things seemed more than I could
bear. Every time I started a new aspect of my training or was nervous I
found myself chanting to her in order to keep my mind clear and
focused. Maa’s assistance was felt in the removal of obstacles and
negative stereotypes of those around me to the assistance with
furthering my artwork. Maa was with me every step of the way and still
What makes Her real for you in the living of day-to-day life? How does She show up?
To me it is easy to see Maa on my altar everyday in the form of
statuary and image, but in my studies I have been frequently challenged
to recognize Maa in all things, in all our daily happenings and in
those who cross our path. This is a challenge because of our social
upbringing to distance ourselves from those people, place and things
that are foreign to us but this is where I tend to seek her out most.
The more I focus on recognizing Maa in all that surrounds me the more I
In my daily life, in my daily conversation with her/myself,
she manifests through the engaging questions my children might ask me,
or in the passing glance of an object or person and in my devotional
Most specifically, I recently laid to rest my Grandmother who was
the grand dame of our family. I specifically handled the after care of
her passing and recognized that in dressing and attending to my
grandmother's remains that Maa was there as both guiding and nurturing
keeper of me as her child and as the very entity that I was returning
my grandmother too through cremation. Maa’s presence although startling
in its finality was very comforting.
All of this, apprenticeship,
daily life, life milestones and even connections through writing with
those in our community express Maa’s attributes and abilities to me in
(Raven talked with Chandra for this piece on July 24, 2009)
Jai Maa, Raven! Thank you for sharing your courage and commitment so openly. We are so glad you have offered this gift of your story in community. Evam Astu - Blessed Be!
Read other community stories or contribute to them...! >>
Daughters of Kali Open Circle (8/30)
At SHARANYA, we
approach Maa with a deep commitment to Her homeland, respect, reverence
and honor for Her Indian advocates, and a dedication to the creation of
the Sha'can tradition as an appropriate manifestation of our love for
Her in the West through Shakta Tantra. Originally birthed into consciousness in India, She is
now arising in contexts outside of South Asia and is helping to create,
inspire and evolve new forms of worship. SHARANYA and our tradition is
dedicated to honoring Her appropriately and reverently here in the
western world. "My
DoK experience was profound and fulfilling. I gained not only ancient
and mystical wisdom but also a family that became connected to me on
the most deep, soulful and sacred level...."
One's dedication on
this path as a Daughter of Kali involves study of Hinduism, Tantrick
practice, Sanskrit, and the Old Religion. It can lead to initiation
into Her mysteries within the lineage tradition of Sha'can, a tradition
that is informed by both Tantra and the Craft and sits solidly as a
(R)evolutionary Shakta Tantra relevant for those practicing outside of India
of Kali, one gains an understanding of Kali and the goddesses of the
Tantrick path. At each meeting, we work together using ritual, myth,
lecture, readings, discussion, spiritual practices, and group work to
deepen understanding of the Divine Female in historical, cultural and
psycho-spiritual perspectives. In the spirit of the Sha'can tradition,
in which mind, body, and spirit co-mingle in conscious creation,
classes require commitment, outside reading, participation, and active
engagement of Spirit in the day-to-day world.
Our circle is open to women and men 18 years of age or older.
Respect, responsibility and transparency are our guiding principles in concert with the core wisdoms of Tantra itself.
Learn more about Daughters of Kali >>
Quote of the Month
Waxing and waning, birth and death, take place within the human
psyche and the life cycle. Each is to be welcomed in its proper time and
season, because life is a process of constant change...
We are not separate from each other, from the broader world
around us; we are one with the Goddess, with the God...
as the season
changes, we arouse the power from within,
the power to heal, the power to
change our society,
the power to renew the earth.
- Starhawk, The Spiral Dance
Add to our community musings! >>
Raksha Bandhan: Protection, Love and Creativity
On Wednesday, August 5th, SHARANYA community gathered for a satsang and meditation on love during
the full moon in the Hindu month of Shravana. We gathered too in
celebration of the Hindu/Indian festival of Raksha Bandhan.
affectionately called Rakhi, this day marks the triumph of good over
evil in Hindu mythology and the protection offered by the goddess to
make it so. History too takes up the tradition of sacred talismans
being placed around husbands', brothers', and friends' wrists by women
seeking to offer their protection to a cause. Today, Rakhi is
celebrated all over India with gifts of decorated bracelets tied to
honor beloved and treasured friends, or to ask for protection in some
We, however, expaneded this full moon ritual and celebration--for we tied Rakhi on one another without regard to
gender. In pairs, we presented the bracelets with offerings of blessings in response to divinations received and fed one another fruits and chocolate. It was a glorious and memorable evening.
Thank you to everyone who came and shared the full moon with us!
See other upcoming events and celebrations >>
To the Kaula & Community
Gratitudes and Blessings...
For all the work each one of us does every day to make Her present in every moment, with every breath. Jai Maa!
Click here for more mantras for your daily practice... >>