Ganesh Chaturthi is a ten day festival to celebrate the birth of Lord Ganesha. Son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, Ganesha is known by 108 different names and is the Lord of arts and sciences and the deva of wisdom. Widely referred to as Ganapati or Vinayaka He is honoured at the start of rituals and ceremonies as He is considered the God of beginnings.
There are two different versions about Ganesha's birth. Lord Shiva, the God of resolution was away from Kailash .As Goddess Parvati was alone at home,she felt the necessity of someone to guard the door of her house while she took bath. When she did not get anyone,she conceived the idea of creating a son who could guard her. She then created an ideal out of her sandalwood paste and breathed life into it. She then asked him to stand at the gate and not let anyone enter anyone until she comes out. Shiva who had 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. When Parvati saw her beheaded son she took the form of Goddess Kali and threatened to destroy all the three worlds.In order to appease Parvati and save the world from destruction,Lord Shiva sent out his followers to find a child’s head.The first such child that came in the eyes of the Lord’s followers was a baby elephant. Lord Shiva fixed the baby elephant's head on the child and brought him back to life. Parvati was overwhelmed with happiness and embraced her son.They named him Ganesha i.e. the Lord of all the Ganas (followers). All the Lords blessed the child and the day is celebrated for the same reason.
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 vighnaharta (obstacle-averter) to help the Devas achieve fruits of their hard work.
History behind Ganesh Chaturthi
It is not known when and how Ganesh Chaturthi was first celebrated. But according to the earliest Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations can be traced back to the times of the reigns of dynasties as Satavahana, Rashtrakuta and Chalukya. Historical records reveal that Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations were initiated in Maharashtra by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja, the great Maratha ruler, to promote culture and nationalism. And it had continued ever since. There are also references in history to similar celebrations during Peshwa times. It is believed that Lord Ganapati was the family deity of the Peshwas. After the end of Peshwa rule, Ganesh Chaturthi remained a family affair in Maharashtra from the period of 1818 to 1892.
When is the festival celebrated
Ganesh Chaturthi or VinayakChaturthi is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Bhadrapada, starting on the Shukla Chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon period). Typically the day falls sometime between August 20 and September 15.The celebrations last for around ten days (from Bhadrapad Shukla Chaturthi to Ananta Chaturdashi). It is believed that Lord Ganesh was born on a fourth day (Chaturthi) of the bright fortnight of the Hindu lunar month of Magh. Since then, an association between Ganesh and Chaturthi has been established.
Rituals during the festival
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.
Ganesh Chaturthi festivities
While celebrated all over India, Ganesh Chaturthi festivities are more elaborate in states like Maharashtra, Goa (It is the biggest festival for Konkani people all over the world), Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, and other areas which were former states of the Maratha Empire. Outside India, it is celebrated in Nepal by the Newars.In the 21st century, with the world turning into a global village, Ganesh Chaturthi is now celebrated all over the world, wherever there is a presence of a Hindu community.
The festival is so popular that the preparations begin months in advance. Days before the actual worship, homes are cleaned and marquees erected at street corners to house the idols of the Lord. Elaborate arrangements are made for lighting, decoration, mirrors and flowers. The artisans who make the idols of Ganesh vie with each other to make bigger and better sculptures. The sizes of the relatively larger ones range anywhere from 10 meters to 30 meters in height. These are installed in marquees and in homes prior to the Puja (worship). During the festival the Lord is worshipped with great devotion and prayer services are performed daily. The duration of the Lord's stay varies from place to place; once the worship is complete, the statues are carried on decorated floats to be immersed in the rivers or sea .The procession and immersion is accompanied with dancing and the sound of exciting drum-beats, devotional songs and exploding firecrackers. As the idol is immersed amidst loud chants of Ganesh Maharaj Ki Jai, the festival comes to an end with pleas to the Lord to return the next year with chants of Ganapati bappa morya, pudhchya varshi lavkar ya (Hail Lord Ganesh, return again soon next year).