Ganesh Chaturthi; also known as Vinayak Chaturthiis celebrated by Hindus to mark the birth anniversary of Lord Ganesh. The deities of Lord Ganesh worship him as he is considered as the God of prosperity, wisdom and also good affluence.
It is celebrated in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada, and begins on theday of Shukla Chaturthi (which coincides with the English months of August or September). It is usually a ten day celebration, which ends on Anant Chaturdashi or GaneshVisarjan day.
As per the Hindu division of the day, the time between sunrise and sunset is divided into five parts. These five equal divisions are:Pratahkala, Sangava, Madhyahna, Aparahna and Sayankal. It is believed that Lord Ganesh was born during Madhyahna Kala i.e. the midday. Therefore, the sthapana of the Ganpati and the Ganpati Puja are done during the Madhyahna part of the day which is in accordance with the Vedic astrology for being the most auspicious time for worshipping. During the festival, artistic clay images of Lord Ganesh; made by skilled artisans, are decorated at homes and also at mandapasandpandals in almost every locality. Thesepandals are the result of joint effort. Monetary contributions are collected and the idols are decorated beautifully with flowers, lights etc. The models of Lord Ganesha can be seen in various poses and the sizes of the images vary from less than an inch to over 70 feet.
Devotees perform a comprehensiveritualistic puja, which is calledShodashopacharaGanpatiPuja,meaning – 16 ways of paying tribute. The offerings of jaggery, coconut, modaks, durva, red flowers and grass are made. A mixture of kumkum and sandalwood paste is smeared over the idol. The entire ceremony is marked by the chanting of Vedic hymns from the Rig Veda, the Ganapati Atharvashirsa, Upanishads and the GaneshaStotra from the NaradaPurana.
The origin of the celebration of this festival dates back to the years 1630 – 1680; during the reign of Shivaji, the Maratha King. The festival was made a public event in Maharashtra in the year 1892, by BhausahebLaxmanJavale. Today, it is celebrated with great pomp and show in all the parts of the country and even abroad, but the places where the celebrations are at their grandest are Maharashtra, Telangana, Goa, Andhra Pradesh and some parts of western and Southern India.
Ganesha was created by Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva from the sandalwood paste that she used for bathing; she then breathed life into it and decided to make him her escort. She told him to guard the door as she took a bath. Lord Shiva and Ganesh were unknown to each other, so on his return when Shiva was not allowed to enter by Ganesha, there was a great combat between them and in the end, Shiva severed Ganesha’s head. When Parvati saw Ganesha’s head chopped off, she became very angry. Shiva promised her that her son would live again. The search for a dead person facing North began; but only the head of a dead elephant could be found. So, Lord Shiva fixed the elephant’s head on the child’s body and brought him back to life. He then named the boy ‘Ganesha’ – Lord of Ganas.
Seeing the moon on the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi is prohibited as it is believed to be inauspicious and it is said to cause MithyaDosham or MithyaKalank. This belief originates from an event in the Puranic legends, where Lord Krishna had to face the curse of MithyaDoshabecause he sighted the moon on Shukla Chaturthi during Bhadrapada. This was because Lord Ganeshahad cursed God Chandra that whoever sights the moon on the Shukla Chaturthi will have to face the wrath and suffer the MithyaKalank i.e. dishonor by the society. As repentance, Lord Krishna had to observe fast on Ganesh Chaturthi and got relieved of the MithyaDosha. Thus, sighting of the moon is avoided till the Chaturthi Tithi (date) lasts. And in case somebody sights it by mistake there is a Mantra to save one’s self from the curse.
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in many parts of our country with slight variations.
Ganesh Chaturthi is a very important festival of Maharashtra. Most of the Hindu families put their own idol of Lord Ganesha and it is worshipped both in the mornings and evenings till the day of GaneshaVisarjana. Flowers and durva are offered to the idols. Worshippers sing aarti in praise of Lord Ganesha, other gods and even the saints. The song of the Ganesh aarti sung in Maharashtra was composed by saint Samarth Ramdas. Here, the celebrations last for 1, 3, 5, 7 or 11 days. On Anant Chaturdashi or the Ganesh Visarjan day, devotees take out a grand, colourful procession on the streets and immerse the idol of Lord Ganesha in ponds, rivers, lakes or the sea. Now a days, in order to avoid the pollution of the water bodies, the immersion is often done in tubs or buckets, and after a few days when the clay has completely dissolved in the water, it is put in pots or home gardens.
This popular festival is also a source of income for various types of people. Artists get an opportunity to exhibit their art. Cultural programmes are organized and it gives a platform for budding artists to reach out toaudiences and customers.
In Karnataka also Ganesh Chaturthi is considered to be the most important festival. Each house celebrates it by keeping idols for 1, 3, 5, 10 or even 21 days. The mandapa where the idol is kept is decorated beautifully by flowers. Laddoos, Modaka, Kadubu and karanjis are offered to Lord Ganesha till the Ganesh Visarjan takes place.
In Telangana, Ganesh idols are made of clay, turmeric and evenPlaster of Paris. Here too, the celebrations last for 1, 3, 5, 7 or 11 days. On the day of GaneshaVisarjan, a huge crowd accompanies the idols and takes them to the Tank band Road and immerse them in the Hussain Sagar.
In Tamil Nadu, Ganesh Chaturthi is popularly known as Pillayar Chaturthi or Vinayak Chaturthi. It is celebrated in the month of Aavani on the fourth day of the new moon. The clay or paper mache idols of LordGanesha, which are not more than 13 feet high, are adorned with garlands and Bermuda grass. At some places, the idols are made out of coconuts and other organic products. They are offered laddoo and Modak and also other dishes. People frequent the temples during the entire celebration period. In Chennai and also in other parts of the state, the idols of Lord Ganesha are put up at public places also. They are worshipped for some days and then on a Sunday, they are immersed in the Bay of Bengal. Ganesh Chaturthi is regarded as one of the most important festivals in Tamil Nadu and especially in Chennai.
In Kerala, in the month of Chingam, Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated as Vinyakha Chaturthi or LamboodharaPiranalu. People perform milk abhishekam on the Ganesha idols. For the visarjan, the idols are taken in the form of a procession from PazhavangadiGanapathi Temple to the Shankumugham beach and immersed there. After Nivedyam, people are served a grand meal.
In Goa, Ganesh Chaturthi is known as Chavath and also Parab. It is celebrated on the third day of Bhadrapada. Women observe fast on this day and they worship Haritalika along with Shiva. The festival is marked by aarti, puja and feasts. The celebrations include giving gifts, decorations, fireworks and also distribution of sweets.Ganesha idols are immersed in tanks, sea or rivers on the second day in most places, whereas, in some places it may be on the 5th, 7th or 9th or 11th day.
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated not only in India, but all over the world by passionatedevotees. In the year 2005, in London, The Vishwa Hindu Temple celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi and the idol was immersed in the river Thames. Similar celebrations take place at Liverpool, USA, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Canada, Malaysia, and Singapore etc. Cultural and devotional programmes are organized, decorations are done, weekend celebrations are arranged and processions are taken out on the occasion. The festive dishes of Modak, Karanji, Modakkam, Laddoo, Panakam, Vadapappu, Chalividi; which have rice flour, jaggery, cardamom and coconut as the main ingredients, are offered to Lord Ganesha. These offerings to god are called Naivedyam.
Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival which brings happiness and prosperity and the devotees; no matter where they are, participate in all the rituals with full devotion and enthusiasm, thereby making it an important festival of bonding among people.