Ganesha the elephant god

In the Rotary club of Port Louis, whilst I was an active member, it was customary a few days before a holiday that a talk  be given on the essence of the festival. The organising committee wanted to achieve greater understanding of the varied culture of the country so that we may value our differences. I recall the brilliant speech  given by Shyam Seebun on Ganesh Chaturti. He did not restrict himself to commenting on the feast itself, he went on to give his understanding of the Hindu mythology which translated into habits and behaviours which could appear to be unusal  to others.

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Ganesha Chaturthi (IAST: Gaeśa Caturthī, sanskrit: गणेश चतुर्थी) or Ganesha Festival is a day on which Lord Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati, is believed to bestow his presence on earth for all his devotees. It is also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chavithi in Sanskrit, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu, Chavath ( चवथ ) in Konkani and as Chathaa (चथा) in Nepal Bhasa. It is celebrated as it is the birthday of Lord Ganesha. The festival is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Bhaadrapada, starting on the shukla chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon period). Typically, the day falls sometime between August 20 and September 15. The festival lasts for 10 days, ending on Ananta Chaturdashi. This festival is observed in the lunar month of bhadrapada shukla paksha chathurthi madhyahana vyapini purvaviddha. if chaturthi prevails on both days, the first day should be taken. Even if chaturthi prevails for complete duration of madhyahana on the second day, but if it prevails on previous day’s madhyahana period even for one ghatika (24 minutes) the previous day should be taken. (Ref. Dharmasindhu and Indian Calendric System, by Commodore S.K. Chatterjee (Retd). Madhyahana is the 3rd / 5th part of the day (Sunrise-sunset).

Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati, is widely worshipped as the supreme god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune.

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Celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi in Mauritius dated back to 1896. The first Ganesh Chaturthi Puja was held at the height of the 7,Cascades Valley in Henrietta by the Bhiwajee family who is still celebrating this pious festival for more than a century.

My first visit ever to India in 1968, must have been during the festival of Ganesh. I recall that in company of Harry Saminaden and Guy Hugnin, we landed at Santa Cruz Bombay international airport and stayed at Nataraj Hotel on the Queen’s Collier area. We were watching the numerous processions God Ganesh all over town. The town of Bombay, the capital of Maharastra is the place of the highest worshippers of Ganesh, the elephant god. I was taken in the crowd to visit the elephant caves, an island off the harbor of Bombay facing the Gate of India monument, where worshippers flocked for the festival. Indeed as a very young traveler I was very impressed with the large crowd, the colorful scenery and the noisy and babbling population.

Maria Montessori

Some years ago, whilst I was actively involved with the project of ‘ecoles complementaires ’ directed by my dear friend Jean Noel Adolphe, I had to learn and to upgrade my knowledge in the subject. The ‘pedagogy of love’ used to be the theme developed by Jean Noel  as the differentiating factor between the normal school and ‘ecoles complementaires’ when presenting his project with the incompetent, non experienced volunteers that would ready commit to give in their time and energy to a great cause.

At the back stage of the organisation a fantastic team of committed real professional educationists ensured that the volunteers are trained fast and adequately to provide the learning that is expected. That slice of my life brought me to read and study Education, Pedagogy and learning. I avid read of methods devised by Jean Baptise de La Salle, Piaget, Montessori and many others. A new world was opened to me. I was introduced previously to this world through the opening of learning models of NLP. I was very keen on the accelerated learning methods developed following the discoveries of the brain.

For the reopening of the school year today in France, the French Radio in a talk show broadcasted the wonderful story of Maria Montessori. Did you know that in Italy of the 1890’s women were not permitted to study medicine in universities? Maria fought and managed to become a doctor. This has rekindled my interest in the marvellous life of Maria and the influence she had in the world of child pedagogy.

Aside from a new pedagogy, among the premier contributions to educational thought by Montessori are:

  • instruction of children in 3-year age groups, corresponding to sensitive periods of development (example: Birth-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, 12-15 year olds with an Erdkinder (German for “Land Children”) program for early teens
  • children as competent beings, encouraged to make maximal decisions
  • observation of the child in the prepared environment as the basis for ongoing curriculum development (presentation of subsequent exercises for skill development and information accumulation)
  • small, child-sized furniture and creation of a small, child-sized environment (microcosm) in which each can be competent to produce overall a self-running small children’s world
  • creation of a scale of sensitive periods of development, which provides a focus for class work that is appropriate and uniquely stimulating and motivating to the child (including sensitive periods for language development, sensorial experimentation and refinement, and various levels of social interaction)
  • the importance of the “absorbent mind,” the limitless motivation of the young child to achieve competence over his or her environment and to perfect his or her skills and understandings as they occur within each sensitive period. The phenomenon is characterized by the young child’s capacity for repetition of activities within sensitive period categories (Example: exhaustive babbling as language practice leading to language competence).
  • self-correcting “auto-didactic” materials (some based on work of Jean Marc Gaspard Itard and Edouard Seguin)