On the day of Ganesha Chaturthi festival, there is a tradition of worshipping Lord Ganesha with 21 different varieties of leaves known as Ekavimshati Pathra Pooja. Ekavimshati is a Sanskrit word meaning 21. What is the significance of worshipping Lord Ganesha with the specific variety of leaf (Pathra) used in the pooja? Since Vedic times, usage of sacred leaves and roots/stems/herbs of sacred trees is in vogue while performing any Homa/Yagna or any sacred ritual. Apart from spiritual significance there is also an element of health consciousness and environmental protection involved in its usage. Even today these leaves/herbs are used in preparing Ayurvedic medicines used for curing several diseases. Apart from this they act as a Divine way of controlling pollution, be it water or air.
For example Ganesha Chaturthi festival occurs during monsoon season when the climate is generally not suitable for health. People suffer from various viral infections and water born diseases during this period. There will be lot of water pollution also due to rains and floods during monsoon. After the Ganesha festival, the worshipped Ganesha idols along with the pooja leaves (Pathra) are immersed (Nimajjana) in water (rivers/canals/lakes/sea). These leaves when they are thrown in to water it helps in purifying the water with its medicinal properties. When these idols are made up of natural clay (mud/soil) they get dissolved very easily in water and also cleanse the water without causing any pollution.
Instead, what is happening today is, we find people using idols made up of Plaster of Paris coated with colours (enamel paints). These idols generally take lot of time to get dissolved and in the process water gets polluted with mixing of chemicals and paints used for the idols. Moreover, they are harmful even to the living beings inside the water. Hence, from the environmental angle as well as health point of view it is suggested to use only idols made up of natural clay which are eco friendly.
Let us see what these 21 varieties of leaves (Pathra) used in the Ganesha festival stands for and their medicinal value.
Maachi Pathram (Artemisia vulgaris/Imperata Cylindrica) – They have the property of purifying the surrounding. They are used for curing skin diseases (leprosy, leucoderma), nervous diseases, and abdominal related.
Bruhathee Pathram (Solanum indicum/Carisssa Carandass) – Used for asthma, cough, constipation. Also used for women in post natal period
Bilva Pathram (Aegle marmeolus) – Used for Dysentery. It also purifies water. Bilva leaf is very popular in the worship of Lord Shiva.
Durva Pathram (Cyanodon dactylon/Cyanodon Dacry) – It is used for Skin diseases, arresting bleeding, anemia. Durva leaf is used in the worship of Lord Ganesha. It is also called as Garike.
Dattura Pathram (Stramonium) – Used for joint pains, abdominal, skin diseases, hair fall. Also used in poisonous bites
Badari Pathram (Zizipus Jujube) – Used for digestive disorders, wounds and injuries, blood impurities. Also used for maintaining the voice. Badari Kshetra is known after these trees as they are in abundance in Badari. Lord Veda Vyasa is also called as Badarayana named after the forest of Badari trees which is said to be the hermitage of Lord Veda Vyasa.
Apamarga Pathram (Achyranthus Aspera) – Used for digestive disorders and also used for poisonous bites.
Thulasi Pathram (Ocimum sanctum) – Used for respiratory diseases, skin diseases, purifies air, water and surroundings. This is a common house hold plant which is considered to be very sacred and celestial. The leaves are used in the worship of Lord Vishnu who is very much fond of Thulasi.
Chootha Pathram (Azadarcata indica/ Mangifera indica) – Used in Diabetics, for cracked heals, diseases of throat.
Karaveera Pathram (Thevetia Nerifolium/Nerium indicum) – Used for leprosy, wounds and injuries, hair fall, lice.
Vishnu Krantha Pathram (Evolvulus Aisinoides/Convolvulus pluricaucis) – Used for Nervous related, memory power
Daadimi Pathram (Punica granatum) – Used for Dysentery, Vata/Pitta/Kapha dosha
Devdaru Pathram (Cedrus deodar) – Used for skin diseases, wounds/injuries
Maruvaka Pathram (Origanum Valgara/Origanum majoram) – Used for Joint pains, skin diseases, heart diseases
Sindhudara Pathram (Vitex nirgundo) – Used for Vaata related problems and also used in anti poisonous drugs.
Jajee Pathram (Jasminum grandiflorum/Myristica Fragrams) – Used for skin diseases, Mouth related problems and also in indigestion.
Gandaki Pathram (Sterculia Urens/Latha Durva) – Used for Heart related, Piles, Skin diseases.
Shami Pathram (Prosopis specigera) – It is used for respiratory problems. This tree acquired lot of significance from Pancha Pandavas who had kept there weapons on this tree during their Agnathavasa. This tree is also worshipped as a remedy and we find people taking pradakshina around this tree on the day of Vijaya Dasami.
Aswattha Pathram (Ficus religiosa) – Its bark is used in preparation of many medicines. It is also used for arresting bleeding. The significance and importance of this tree is so much that it is considered as Trimurthi (Trinity) swaroopa (Trinal Lords, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva). We find people performing Naga Devatha Pratishta under this tree.
Arjuna Pathram (Morinda Tinctoria/Terminelia Arjuna) – Used for Joint pains, Vata/Pitta/Kapha related, heart diseases, wounds and septic conditions
Arka Pathram (Calotropis Procera) – It is used in poisonous bites, wounds and injuries, curing skin diseases, leprosy, tumors, joint pains, etc… It is said that it has 64 varieties of medicinal usage. It is called as a healing herb. We find usage of this leaf on the day of Ratha Sapthami. It is associated with the worship of Sun God, Lord Hanuman and also Lord Ganesha.
While usage of these leaves has proven medicinal value, it is suggested to use them only under Medical advice.
Usage of Duurva (Garike) in Ganesha Pooja
It is said and believed that usage of Garike has attained lot of significance in the worship/pooja of Lord Ganesha who is very much fond of this item. The legend behind this relates to the curse given by Goddess Parvati (Consort of Lord Shiva) to Nandeeswara (Mount of Lord Shiva). In order to get rid of the effect of curse, Goddess Parvati had asked Nandeeswara to shed what is most pleasing to him and offer the same to her son Lord Vinayaka which will please him the most. Thus Durva became most pleasing item to Lord Ganesha. Generally Durva is offered in pooja in odd number (5/7/21)
Thus worshiping Lord Ganesha with different varieties of leaves is associated with the belief that these medicinal values will reach the human beings either through air or water apart from providing the required sanctity and spirituality.