How to make a ganesh altar

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Lord Ganesh (or Ganesha) is the blissful elephant headed God adored by millions of Hindu people, as well as those of the Buddhist and Jain faiths, and many other non-Hindus. One story tells that Goddess Parvati created the young man from sandalwood paste, to guard her privacy. Later his father, Shiva -- Parvati's mate -- was unaware the young man was his own son. They fought and the boy's head was severed. Shiva's devotees (ganas) brought an elephant head to replace the boy's own. Parvata was pacified and the young man resumed his path. Make your own home altar or shrine to honour Ganesh and hold pujas (devotions) by assembling the traditional items on a low table.

Purchase or use an existing low table suitable for kneeling and prostrations. Clean it, then lay a clean altar cloth to cover it. The cloth can be colourful with symbols or plain. You can also use large scarves or fabric squares with hemmed edges. If you want room for perambulations, allow a few feet of space all around the table.

Center a statue or image of Ganesh on top of the altar cloth. Choose one that will fit easily on the table with room left for other offering items and traditional implements. Make sure the image is clean. Some people will loving dust or wash their Ganesh before placing, and periodically for other rituals. If you only have a photograph, place it in a manner that gives it prominence over other objects.

Encircle the central Ganesh with the other items to be used for pujas. Some of these can be on one tray, others in small bowls, cups and vials. Clean, clear water and flowers should always be fresh. It is suggested that the main oil lamp be kept lit throughout the day when you are home, so place it where it won't easily get knocked over. If you use milk offerings, always pour fresh milk when you do your puja.

Follow your usual rites for prayers, meditation and pujas from a pillow in front of the altar. If several people, such as family members or friends join you periodically, tuck a few extra pillows under the table, hidden beneath the altar cloth, for easy access. Keep the CD or tape player and your favourite music or chants nearby, if you wish to play music during your practice.

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