Oct. 22, 2018

Ganesh Festival comes to UCalgary for the first time

Join in the celebration on Oct. 23
Ganesh Festival takes place on campus October 23

Statue of Lord Ganesh generously provided by the Bhat family for Ganesh Festival.

On Oct. 1, Jayashree and her spouse, Suresh, were busy with all the last-minute details that need attention when hosting an event. The fruit and sweets were ready, and the dancers and musicians were confirmed. But that night, 25 centimetres of snow buried the city — along with their plans for the first-ever Ganesh Festival at UCalgary.

However, Jayashree Bhat, UCalgary senator, and Suresh Bhat, Hindu chaplain at the university’s Faith and Spirituality Centre, were determined to bring Ganesh Festival to the campus community. They re-booked the performers, secured a new space, and chose Tuesday, Oct. 23 as the new date of UCalgary’s inaugural Ganesh Festival.

First on-campus Ganesh Festival

Ganesh Festival is a contemplative event, where people make offerings to Ganesh of fruit and modak, a soft-shelled dumpling-like dessert with a grated coconut filling. During the festival, worshippers pray to Ganesh, one of the most popular deities of Hinduism, and meditate on the significance he has in their lives.

“The beauty of Ganesh is that, all across India, there are many regions and languages. Each region has its own deity. But one and all, they all pray to Ganesh,” Jayashree says. “Ganesh is the only deity that is prayed to, believed in and celebrated as the first deity by 100 per cent of Hindus.”

The Bhats are generously providing the statue of Ganesh that will be used at the festival. There will be a tabla player coming in from India, dancing, and sitar music during a cultural presentation at the event, happening at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Light vegetarian snacks will be served throughout. Everyone is invited to take part in the celebration, which is being held in The Loft (MacEwan Student Centre 487). Drop in anytime between noon and 6 p.m.

Ganesh Festival is an annual celebration of the birth of Ganesh, the lord of obstacles and difficulties. Praying to Ganesh is said to grant success and protection from adversity.

“There are many people in this world who believe if you pray sincerely and honestly to Lord Ganesha, he will help you all the way to success,” Suresh says.

“You may be having difficulty doing your educational program, with exams, or whatever else. Of course, he will not help you if you don’t study at all — your effort has to be there.”

Hindu chaplaincy at the Faith and Spirituality Centre

Suresh Bhat, Suman Katyal and Usha Sharma make up the Hindu chaplaincy at UCalgary’s Faith and Spirituality Centre (FSC). Students, faculty and staff seeking spiritual guidance or support, answers to questions about Hinduism or community connection are welcome to visit the Hindu chaplains on Thursdays from 1 to 3 p.m. in the FSC (MacKimmie Block 122).

Jayashree hopes the Hindu chaplaincy will become well-rooted in the campus community, continuing even if the current chaplains move on.

Those who come [to see the chaplains], they are definitely benefiting. When I was substituting for somebody, three people came. All three of them left very happily,” she says.

“I saw one of them a couple of weeks after my chaplaincy, and the person ran toward me and he said, ‘You know what you were telling me about the other day, I thought about it and it makes a lot of sense.’ When I say something and that makes sense to somebody — wonderful! That’s the whole idea.”

Visit the Faith and Spirituality Centre’s website for more engaging community events.