Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Novel Methods of Obeisance

In South India, devotees have two novel methods of worshipping Lord Ganesha. The first one is where they tap their temples (side of the head behind the eyes) with their knuckles (making a fist). The second is where they cross their arms and pull their ear lobes, while performing sit ups! Do you know how these interesting methods of obeisance came about?

In the last story, Ravana and Ganesha I told you how Ravana was cheated of the Lingam he had brought from Kailas by Ganesha in the form of a young boy. In his anger, he hit the child on the head with his fist, and when the child revealed his true form, Ravana realized that it was all a plan of the God. In his disappointment as well as regret, he hit himself on his temples with his own knuckles.
Devotees even today pay obeisance to Lord Ganesha by tapping their temples with their knuckles to remind themselves that everything is the will of God, and that we have to be humble enough to accept it. it is also a method for asking forgiveness.
Scientifically, it is said to be a method of acupressure – applying pressure to the temples is helpful to the brain.

The second method of prayer has another story behind it. Once, it is believed, Lord Vishnu came to Kailas to meet Lord Shiva. The little Ganesha was playing, and Lord Vishnu ignored him, thinking that he was just a small child. Ganesha didn’t like being ignored, and like all small children, tried to gain some attention. He picked up Vishnu's chakra (discus) and swallowed it! Vishnu was stunned! He politely asked Ganesha to take it out, but the child just laughed. Vishnu thought for a moment and realized that he should not have ignored the child. Besides, he probably didn’t know how to take the chakra out. The best idea would be to make the child laugh so much that the chakra would come out! In an effort to appear funny to the child, Lord Vishnu held his ear lobes with opposite hands, and started doing sit ups! The trick worked, for Ganesha started laughing so hard that he regurgitated the chakra at once!

And that is how people started paying obeisance to Ganesha by holding their ear lobes with opposite hands and performing sit ups! In Tamil, it is called the ‘Topikarnam’. The word comes from the Sanskrit words – Twabhyam Karna, which means I will obey your command! Topikarnam is also considered a way to ask forgiveness for our misdeeds. It used to be a typical punishment used to make kids realize their mistakes and not to perform the same mistake again.

Scientifically, it is believed that these two actions activate the nervous system, and thus stimulates the flow of fresh blood to our brain. Doing these actions as a method of obeisance to the Lord also helps us forget ourselves and our ego and submit to the higher power of the Lord. This thus helps us not only think better and clearer, but also gives us peace of mind!

Images in this post have been borrowed from the site Himalayan Academy. Their page on Ganapati Puja has   detailed explanations for every part of the prayer to Lord Ganesha, and most interestingly, each method is illustrated! Please click here and take a look!


Ramya Mahesh said...
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Ramya Mahesh said...

Wow Anu.. Awesome. So insightful and informative :)

Anuradha Shankar said...

Thanks Ramya!!

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