One of the most important Hindu festivals, Ganesha Chaturthi, also known as ‘Vinayak Chaturthi’ or ‘Vinayaka Chavithi’ is celebrated by Hindus with devotion and enthusiasm, as the birthday of Lord Ganesha. It is observed during the Hindu month of Bhadra (mid-August to mid-September).
The festival is celebrated by families at home, by people at their places of work and in public. The public celebration involves installing clay images of Ganesha in public pandals (temporary shrines) and group worship. Preparations for the festival begin 2-3 months prior to the day of Ganesh Chaturthi. Life-like clay models of Lord Ganesha in different sizes varying from 3/4th of an inch to 70 ft feet are made for large community celebrations.
At home, families buy a small idol beautifully sculpted idol of Lord Ganesha. A clean corner of the house is decorated with flowers and other colorful items before installing the idol on a platform. Lord Ganesh is worshiped by the offering of flowers, durva(strands of young grass), karanji and modaks. Domestic celebrations end after 1, 1 1⁄2, 3, 5, 7 or 11 days when the idol is taken for immersion with chanting, dancing and singing.
The idols are brought to “pandals” or temporary structures usually 15–20 days before. These beautifully sculpted oversized idols of Lord Ganesha are placed on a platform, in elaborately decorated outdoor tents for people to view and pay their homage. Communities compete with each other to put up a more outstanding pandal and idol of Lord Ganesha, thus paving the way to a lot of variety.
The priest, usually clad in red silk dhoti and shawl, invokes life into the idol amidst the chanting of mantras. This ritual is called ‘pranapratishhtha’. After this, the ‘shhodashopachara’ (16 ways of paying tribute) follows. For 10 days, from Bhadrapad Shudh Chaturthi to the Ananta Chaturdashi, Ganesha is worshiped by chanting Ganesh Stutis (hymns) and devotional songs typically in the morning and evening. Along with offering puja (prayer) to Lord Ganesha, red flowers, incense, and curve grass are offered during the puja. Ganesha’s favorite sweets, i.e. Modak, rice flour dumplings are mandatory offering prepared from dry fruits, coconut, and jaggery. Laddu, Paayasam are other delicacies made on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi. A day-long fast is observed by the devotees, which is broken only after the Ganesha puja and aarti in the evening. Also, read about Ganesh Chaturthi vrat (fast).
On the 11th day, the image is taken through the streets in a procession accompanied by sound of exciting drumbeats, devotional songs, dancing and exploding firecracker to be immersed in a river or the sea symbolizing a ritual see-off of the Lord on his journey towards his abode in Kailash while taking away with him the misfortunes of all man. All join in this final procession shouting “Ganapathi Bappa Morya, Purchya Varshi Laukariya” (O father Ganesha, come again early next year). After the final offering of coconuts, flowers, and camphor, people carry the idol to the river to immerse it.
Lord Ganesh is popularly known as “Vigana Harta” and “Buddhi Pradaayaka” i.e. one who removes obstacles and grants intelligence. Lord Ganpati blessings are invoked at every religious ceremony. While, Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated throughout India, but a grand celebration is observed in almost all the southern states of India. One of the most spectacular celebrations takes place at the Siddhivinayak temple, in Mumbai where numerous devotees come from across India to join in the prayers and celebrations. Based on the historical fact, it is believed that in Maharashtra, the great Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji started the grand celebrations of Ganesh Chaturthi to promote culture and nationalism.
Wish you a Happy and a Blessed Ganesh Chaturthi.