Yesterday when I was driving on the road, I heard the sound of drums and fireworks coming from the road ahead of me. As it is a few days after the Ganesh Chaturti festival, I thought they would be taking Ganesha in procession. As I crossed the procession, I found that it was a funeral procession. Except for the dead body and people near the body crying, it had everything of a Ganesha procession – music, dance, fireworks, flower decoration, etc.
After making the image of Ganesha, God is invoked in the image and worshiped. After the worship, He is taken in a procession and after withdrawing God back into the heart of the worshiper and the empty image is dissolved into the natural elements again.
This is the same as the life story of a man. Once the zygote is formed, the person occupies it. It grows into a body, it takes birth and keeps changing. The person undergoes so many experiences and does so many actions in the world using the body as an instrument and residence. When the body is living, the person bathes it, dresses it, feeds it, etc just as puja is done to God through an image. When it is time, the person leaves the body. The empty body is disposed off into the natural elements by other people. The last journey of the Ganesha idol and the empty body is not very different indeed.
A few days back a person wrote on a discussion forum that Ganesha puja, Durga puja, etc where the image is disposed off after worship are strong messages against people who accuse Hindus of worshiping images. We neither worship images, nor do we worship the human body.