February 27th - 3:30 PM (cont.)

February 27th - 3:30 PM (cont.)

A Chapter by Jim Parson

National Immunization Day (continued)


February 27th �" 3:30 PM - NID (continued)

Later in the afternoon, our hosts took us to a brass manufacturer and we got to see how all the brass figurines are put together.  It was pretty interesting.  And the shop was great, but I got a little carried away.  I ended up buying five pieces " it was the first place we’d been to where I could buy souvenirs and I was concerned it might end up being the only place in Aligarh.  Looking back, I wish I had exercised some control " brass is very heavy and I’m not certain how I’m going to get it back to the States.  But I found the story behind a couple of the pieces very interesting…



  Lord Shiva's

  Dance of Destruction

Shiva is the third member of the Hindu trinity, which includes Brahma and Vishnu.  He is the Destroyer God, but his destruction is good because he removes impurity and sets the stage for new creation.  Brahma is the Creator and Vishnu is the Preserver.  Vishnu is considered the supreme God in some traditions of Hinduism.  Lord Shiva is also known as Nataraj, Lord of the Dance, because he dances the world into and out of existence.

Mark Hamilton, our resident India expert, told me the following story of the Dance of Destruction.  Mark lived in India for two years when he was younger and in the Peace Corps.  He was a bit foggy on some of the details but told me what he could remember.  The vastly abbreviated story goes…


Shiva was battling some evil being for the fate of the world and could not conquer it.  The evil being was some form of changeling and any means Shiva would try to use to defeat it, it would just change form into something for which that attack would not work.  Somehow, Shiva was able to trick it into turning into an infant and was thereby able to defeat it, but I don’t know how.  That’s why, in the figurine, Shiva is dancing on top of a small child.


Later, I researched the Dance, and here’s what I found out:



The right foot, planted on the prostrate body of the infant, Apasmara Purusha, the demon of forgetfulness, symbolizes human ignorance of our divine nature.

Nataraja's dance activates dormant vital energy (kundalini shakti) and becomes an act of both creation, symbolized by the upper right hand holding a kettle drum,


and destruction, represented by the flame held by the upper left hand.



The lower right hand is in the abhaya mudra [means “do not fear”] position, bestowing peace and protection.

The second left hand points downward to the uplifted left foot, signifying release, or some say he is saying “your salvation lies in worshiping at my feet”.


The River Ganga on his head denotes fertility and the crescent moon on his head signifies his grace and also Time.

The cobra on his head indicates Kundalinishakti at Sahasrara-chakra (whatever that means!) and his third eye stands for omniscience or wisdom.

On his right ear, Shiva wears makara-kundala, signifying the male principle and on the left, the tatanka denoting the female principles.  Man, he’s got a lot of stuff on his head.

The ashes smeared all over his body are symbolic of purity.  It reminds us that we should not lose sight of the God - the body will end up in ashes.

A ring of flames and light arises from and surrounds him, representing the purifying power of the dance.


I don’t know about you, but I find this stuff fascinating.





I don’t know why, but I really love this statue - the boy with the elephant head.  Anil tells me this is the most popular of the gods with the Indian people.  It is the god of new beginnings - the destroyer of obstacles.  Whenever someone moves into a new home or opens a new business, this is a good gift to give them.


It reminds me a lot of the role the elephant plays in many cultures.  In Cuban homes, you’ll always find an elephant with its butt facing the front door.  I don’t know why.  Zena says it’s done to bring good luck but doesn’t know why.  In Mexican homes, you’ll also find the elephant, but in a series of three.  Again, I don’t know why.  In China, it’s bad luck to have an elephant’s trunk pointed downward.  Why?  I don’t know.  Except I picked that China thing up in a movie and don’t know if it is actually true.


Here’s what Mark told me about Ganesha.  Ganesha was the son of Lord Shiva and his wife Parvati.  Ganesha did something that upset Shiva, Mark couldn’t remember what, just that it was something that was actually good, but misconstrued by Shiva.  Shiva cut off his head.  Parvati was naturally upset and some other god told her to replace the head with the head of the first person she sees and Ganesha will be revived.  The first thing she saw was an elephant.


That’s what Mark told me.  Researching the story, I discovered there are a lot of different legends regarding the origin of Ganesha.  Here are a couple of them.


Perhaps the most popular story regarding Ganesha's origin is the one derived from the Shiva Purana.  Mother Parvati once wanted to take a bath and created a boy from the dirt of Her own body, asking him to stand as a guard outside while She bathed.  In the meantime, Lord Shiva returned home to find a stranger at His door, preventing Him from entering.  In anger, Shiva cut off the boy's head, upon which Parvati was stricken with great grief.  In order to console Her, Shiva sent out His troops to fetch the head of anyone found sleeping with his head pointing to the north [another says, the head of a child whose mother is sleeping with her back to him].  They found an elephant sleeping thus and brought back its head.  Shiva then attached the elephantine head to the body of the boy and revived him.


The Brahma vaivarta Purana narrates a different story regarding the origin of Ganesha.  Shiva instructed Parvati, who wanted to have a son, to observe the puNyaka vrata for a year to propitiate Vishnu.  On completion of the vrata by Parvati, it was announced that Krishna would incarnate Himself as Her son in every kalpa.  Accordingly, Krishna was born as a charming infant, delighting Parvati who celebrated the event with great enthusiasm.


All the Gods arrived to have a look at the baby.  But Shani, the son of Surya, did not look at him and stared at the ground instead.  Upon Parvati's questioning regarding his behavior, Shani said that his look would harm the baby.  Parvati, however, insisted that he should look at the baby.  In deference to Her wish, Shani cast his eyes on the baby.  Due to his malevolent glance, the baby's head was severed and flew to Goloka, the abode of Krishna.  Parvati and all the Gods assembled there, including Shiva, were grief-stricken.  Thereupon, Vishnu mounted Garuda and rushed to the banks of the Pushpa-bhadra River and brought back the head of a young elephant.  The head of the elephant was joined with the headless body of Parvati's son, reviving him.  All the Gods blessed Ganesha and wished Him power and prosperity.  Shiva made Ganesha the leader of his troops, and also gave Him the following boon:


All obstacles, whatever they may be, will be rooted out by worshiping Ganesha, even as diseases are cured by the worship of Surya and purity results when Vishnu is worshiped.


Interesting stuff, huh.



I also bought a brass horse.  Solid brass, stained mahogany through some kind of chemical treatment and inlaid with gold.  The horse stands about 14” high and the detail is incredible.  It’s very cool.  I also bought a five-candle candelabra made the same way " mahogany colored with gold inlay, but I wish I hadn’t.  It won’t work with the décor of my house at all.  The heat of the moment and all…I think I’ll give it to my parents.  I also bought a brass camel for Alex.  She likes camels.  The amazing thing here is, even though I got completely carried away, all five items cost me only 3,000 rupees, or about $69.  One of these pieces alone would have been more than that in the States.  Enough about brass.


By the way, I’ve been sick the whole time I’ve been here and have now completely lost my voice.  It hasn’t slowed me down any, but it would certainly be more pleasant if I wasn’t.  Contac has been doing the job, but I’m running low.  The rest of the team is going to an Indian wedding tonight, but I think I’m going to stay in and rest up since there hasn’t been much sleep happening at this hotel.

© 2011 Jim Parson

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Finally, I have found some time to come back to this! I love the pics Jim! The work is so amazingly intricate. I like the stories and background on Ganesha too. I feel like I'm doing some armchair traveling here! Too bad that you were sick and did not get to go to the Indian wedding. You were probably just using the illness as an excuse to get out of eating Indian food though! ;) You know, since I started reading this last week, I have been craving Indian food.

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Added on April 10, 2011
Last Updated on April 10, 2011
Tags: India, Rotary, travel, polio, immunizations


Jim Parson
Jim Parson

Los Angeles, CA

I have been a banker for the past 28 years, but my dream has always been to write. I thought maybe it was time to give it a try. I don't think I'm the greatest writer, but I think I can tell a prett.. more..

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