Today, my husband, my father-in-law and I went out fishing at a nearby lake, Little Seneca. We were accompanied by our ever-adorable, fluffy white dog, Cricket.
After tromping around the bushes in one direction and then going back in the other direction, we eventually found a clearing and set up camp. Cricket set off exploring. As she wandered closer and closer to the water’s edge, sniffing as she went, I walked over beside her in case she fell or jumped in the water. Then, I saw tucked away near some tall grass a small idol of the Hindu god Ganesh.
I pointed it out to my husband and his dad, and my husband saw another idol just a little a long from the first one – this one broken.
Less enraptured by the strange find, the two men went back to fishing. As I am wont to do when I have something to share, I promptly called my parents to tell them about my find. I discussed the options – a death, a party, a festival?
When I attended William and Mary, I was a Religious Studies major. It is about as useless as it sounds. Essentially, I wanted to study all the cultures of the world and this major was the closest I could get. My second year there I took a class called “Hindu Gods and Goddesses.” (A look at the 2012-2013 Undergraduate Course Catalog tells me, more than ten years later, the course is now called “Gods and Goddesses of India.”) While I don’t recall my professor’s name, I do remember he was a tall, slender blond man who spoke with great enthusiasm of his trips to India. With his shaggy hair and his Birkenstocked feet, he looked like an academic hippie. Despite taking the class, I seem only to recall what my professor looked like and what he was wearing – nothing at all to explain the small idol on the shore of Little Seneca Lake.
When I got home many hours later, a quick Google search returned no records of recent deaths. Another search told me that Ganesh’s birthday was recently celebrated. His birthday can be marked by great celebration and this year it fell on September 19. The festivities can last up to eleven days, and at the conclusion of the holiday, tradition dictates that followers of Ganesh take idols or murtis to nearby bodies of water and immerse them. What I thought was a strange find was really not at all. Rather, if you were to find Ganesh anywhere at this time of year, it would be near, or in, water. According to the Hindu American Foundation, as of 2008, there are 2.29 million Hindus living in the United States. The Association of Religion Data Archives showed that as of 2010 in Montgomery County, MD, there are approximately 6,500 Hindus. Ganesh is one of the most popular Hindu gods and is widely worshiped. That means throughout Maryland there could be any number of small Ganesh statues at the bottom of lakes or sitting near the shore. And I thought I had stumbled upon something unique!
Despite my disappointment at not uncovering a great mystery, it was fun to do some research. I really miss studying different cultures and religions. This little discovery has me itching to write a research paper on the indigenous religions of Papua New Guinea or the Day of the Dead in Mexico. Rather than feeling exhausted at the end of a long day, I now feel wide awake and ready to write for hours. On the other hand, Cricket fell asleep in my arms in the car…
…and has hardly moved since. Oh, to be able to shut off my brain in such a manner.