Ganesh Chaturthi (also known as Vināyaka Chaturthi, Gaṇēśa Chaturthī or Vināyaka Chavithi) is the Hindu festival celebrated in honour of the elephant-headed god, Ganesha’s Birthday. This is a very auspicious day celebrated to pray to the god so that every new activity that is started is successfully completed without any obstacles (Vighna = Obstacle).
Chaturthi (Hindi चतुर्थी) means “fourth day” or “fourth state”. Celebrations are traditionally held on the fourth day of the first fortnight (Shukla Chaturthi) in the month of Bhaadrapada in the Hindu calendar, usually August or September. Badrapad corresponds to Virgo (simha/avani-tamil) in solar calendar. The festival generally lasts ten days, ending on the fourteenth day of the fortnight (Anant Chaturdashi).
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. At home, an appropriately-sized clay image is installed and worshipped with family and friends. At the end of the festival, the idols are immersed in a large body of water such as the sea, river or a lake. The clay idols disintegrate over time in the water.
It is celebrated throughout India, especially in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. There is a grand celebration in the state of Maharashtra by traditional instrument called dhol and tasha. It is also celebrated in the other parts of India such as Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and other parts of western and southern India.
Ganesha is known by 108 different names and is the Lord of arts and sciences and the deva of wisdom. He’s widely and dearly referred to as Ganapati or Vinayaka.
There are two different versions about Ganesha’s birth. One has it that Goddess Parvati created Ganesha out of dirt off her body while having a bath and set him to guard her door while she finishes her bath. Shiva who has gone out, returned at that time, but as Ganesha didn’t know of him, stopped him from entering. An angry Shiva severed the head of Ganesha after a combat between the two. Parvati was enraged and Shiva promised Ganesha will live again. The devas who went in search of a head facing north of a dead person could manage only the head of an elephant. Shiva fixed the elephant’s head on the child and brought him back to life.
The other legend has it that Ganesha was created by Shiva and Parvati on request of the Devas, to be a vighnakartaa (obstacle-creator) in the path of rakshasas (demonic beings), and a vighnahartaa (obstacle-averter) to help the Devas.
This year, September 5th marks the beginning of this festival which is also called as Vinayaka Chaturthi. Here are some quick facts about the festival
The festival begins on Shukla Chaturthi which is the fourth day of the waxing moon period, and ends on the 14th day of the waxing moon period known as Anant Chaturdashi.
Maharashtra is the state known for grand scale Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations.
During the festival, colourful pandals (temporary shrines) are setup and the Lord is worshiped for ten days.
There are four main rituals during the festival – Pranapratishhtha – the process of infusing the deity into a murti or idol, Shhodashopachara – 16 forms of paying tribute to Ganesha, Uttarpuja – Puja after which the idol could be shifted after it’s infusion, Ganpati Visarjan – immersion of the Idol in the river.
Foodies wait for Modak, a sweet dish prepared using rice or flour stuffed with grated jaggery, coconuts and dry fruits. The plate containing the Modak is supposed to be filled with twenty-one pieces of the sweet.
The festival was celebrated as a public event since the time of Maratha King Shivaji, but a Sarvajanik (Public) Ganesh idol was installed first by Bhausaheb Laxman Javale.
Lokmanya Tilak changed the festival from a private celebration to a grand public event “to bridge the gap between Brahmins and non-Brahmins and find an appropriate context in which to build a new grassroots unity between them”.
Lord Ganesha is also worshiped in Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Nepal and China.