Ganesh Chaturthi is a day for celebrating the presence of Lord Ganesha on earth for all his devotees. It is the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati. He is the god of prosperity, wisdom and good fortune. The festival is also referred to as Vinayaka Chaturthi in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit.
This festival falls on the month of Bhaadrapada (Hindu Calendar). It begins on the Shukla Chaturthi or the fourth day of the waxing moon period and ends with the Ananta Chaturdashi. According to the English calendar, it is celebrated sometime between the 25th of August and the 15th of September. The festival usually goes on for 10 days.
This Hindu festival takes place all over India and with great vigor at Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
Origin of the Festival
Goddess Parvati created Ganesh from the sandalwood paste that she used for bathing. She then breathed life into the sandalwood figure. When Parvati was taking her bath, Ganesha stood as a guard and did not permit Lord Shiva to enter the house, as he did not know him. This incident enraged Lord Shiva and he beheaded the child.
When it dawned on Lord Shiva that he had severed the head of his own child, he placed an elephant�s head in the place of his son�s head. Thus, he became the elephant-headed god.
The Ceremony and Rituals
Ganesh Chaturthi has households worshipping the idol of Shree Ganesha. The festival begins with establishing of the embellished Ganesh idols in adorned mandapas (decorated tents) and homes. The mandapas can be made on religious or current events and themes.
The public ceremonies include competition among the local communities (mandals) for putting up the best and biggest Ganesh idol. Cultural activities like dramas, songs and orchestra also take place.
The offering for the puja or worship is the �panchamrut� (five nectars), which includes curd, milk, honey, jaggery and ghee. This offering is used to bathe the idol of Ganesh.
Lord Ganesha is then dressed in a red garment and a silver sacred thread. Then he is smeared with red sandal paste. Ultimately, red or yellow flowers are offered, bells are chimed, a lamp is lit and the food offering is provided to the god�s five panchapranas (vital breaths) and one to the absolute.
The puja is performed twice daily amid chants of the Ganesh mantra. At last, the family assembles to place rice grains on the idols head and then the idol is symbolically unseated.
The predominant sweet dish of Ganesh Chaturthi is the �modak�, which is called �modagam� in South India. �Karanjis� also is the sweet dish of the festival. �Modak� is a dumpling of wheat flour or rice flour stuffed with jaggery, dry or fresh grated coconut and other condiments. This is fried or steamed. The word �modak� implies �that brings happiness�. �Karanjis� are quite similar to �modaks�, but have the shape of the 4th day moon.
Ganesh Chaturthi in Pune
Pune, the West Indian town celebrates five �Ganesh� or �Ganpati of Honor�. At the time of the festival, the people sing �aartis� (prayers) and visit the houses of their relatives and friends who organize the Ganesh worship at home.
Finally in the immersion day, with the setting of the sun, the images of Ganesh are taken out in boats and immersed into the rivers and sea. This event resembles a sentimental public farewell to their beloved Lord Ganesha.
In Maharashtra, the Ganesh Chaturthi makes way for some important economic activity. There are businesses, artists and industries thriving on this great event. Ganesh Chaturthi acts as a podium for budding artists to bring before the public their talent.