Mumbai: Many assume that all Hindus worship Lord Ganesha. However, there is a section of Hindus who do not worship the elephant-headed God. This is not because of lack of respect for the popular deity rather there are deep religious reasons behind the contrast to the popular belief. Vaishnavas don't celebrate Ganesh Chathurthi festival. In this context, the Free Press Journal spoke to Hari Saranathan, a lawyer who has deeply studied the Vaishnavite traditions.
He said Vaishnavas are often asked why they worship only Lord Narayana and other deities like Shiva, Durga, Ganesha, Subrahmanya etc. He said the reasons are many as mentioned in the Vedas and other scriptures. “The scriptures themselves state that Lord Narayana is the highest God or deity and he alone is worthy of worship. Therefore, the Vaishnavites are merely following the scriptures while practising the exclusive worship of Lord Narayana,” Saranathan explained. The question then arises why the scriptures mention about other deities and prescribe their worship. He replied that while other deities starting from Brahma are subject to karma and rebirth “just like the rest of us”, Lord Narayana is not subject to karma.
“Therefore, he alone needs to be worshipped and not other deities. Lord Narayana is the creator and destroyer of all, including all deities starting with Brahma. These gods are subject to creation and destruction because they are subject to karma. Brahma and other deities have attained their respective positions because of their deeds,” he added. Delving deeper into the concept, the lawyer continued that Lord Narayana has bestowed upon gods the positions for which they strived hard and desired. However, once the term of their position as Brahma or Shiva is over, they are subject to rebirth just like any of us.
Karma and rebirth
The fact that these deities are subject to karma is also evident from many well-known instances such as Shiva slicing off the head of Brahma, Brahma losing Vedas to asuras Madhu and Kaitabha etc.
If all deities are subject to karma, how can they redeem humans from karma and rebirth? Only by worshipping Lord Narayana one can attain 'moksha' or liberation from the cycle of rebirths, Saranathan averred.
In the Vaishnavite system, 'moksha' is entering Vaikuntha after the removal of all sins and performing eternal service to Lord Narayana. The bliss that one enjoys after this is something which even the Vedas have been unable to quantify. Asked about Lord Narayana being born as Rama and Krishna, he said they are incarnations who had come into being not because of karma, but because of the supreme lord's own will. Saranathan pointed out verses four to nine of Bhagwat Gita in this regard.
He further noted that Brahma and Shiva have themselves conceded their subordination to Lord Narayana and again cited Ramayana to back his claim. “Having worshipped Lord Narayana for a thousand crore ages, Brahma obtained the privilege of becoming the creator of the worlds. Similarly, Shiva also performed 'Sarvamedha Yaga' as ordained by Lord Narayana and secured his position as a 'deva shreshta' or greatest among devas,” Saranathan concluded.