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Home > Religious Festivals > Hindu Festivals > Ganesh Chaturthi
Ganesh Chaturthi
Ganesh ChaturthiGanpati, which means "The Lord of Hosts"; ("Gan" = army, "Ish" = god). Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most popular of Hindu festivals. This is the birthday of Lord Ganesha. It is the day most sacred to Lord Ganesha. It falls on the 4th day of the bright fortnight of Bhadrapada (August-September). It is also called Vinayaka Chaturthi. It is observed throughout India, as well as by devoted Hindus in all parts of the world. Lord Ganesha is the elephant-headed God. He is worshipped first in any prayers. His Names are repeated first before any auspicious work is begun; before any kind of worship is begun.

Vakratunda Mahakaya Soorya Koti Samaprabha Nirvighnam Kurume dev Sarva karyeshu Sarvada

Meaning

" O lord with the twisted trunk, with the effulgence of a billion suns, always remove the obstacles when I am on an auspicious undertaking."

This small prayer is chanted before starting anything auspicious. This prayer invokes Lord Ganesha to remove all obstacles (vighna) which normally come our way when we start any new work. Thus, he is also called Vighnaharta or Vighneshwara.

Ganesha`s head symbolizes the Atman or the soul, which is the ultimate supreme reality of human existence, and his human body signifies Maya or the earthly existence of human beings. The elephant head denotes wisdom and its trunk represents Om, the sound symbol of cosmic reality. In his upper right hand, Ganesha holds a goad, which helps him propel mankind forward on the eternal path and remove obstacles from the way. The noose in Ganesha`s left hand is a gentle implement to capture all difficulties.

The broken tusk that Ganesha holds like a pen in his lower right hand is a symbol of sacrifice, which he broke for writing the Mahabharata. The rosary in his other hand suggests that the pursuit of knowledge should be continuous. The laddoo (sweet) he holds in his trunk indicates that one must discover the sweetness of the Atman. His fan-like ears convey that he is all ears to our petition. Vasuki, the snake that runs round his waist represents energy in all forms. And, he is humble enough to ride the lowest of creatures, a mouse.
He is the Lord of power and wisdom. He is the elder brother of Skanda or Kartikeya. He is the energy of Lord Shiva and so He is called the son of Shankar and Umadevi. By worshipping Lord Ganesha, mothers hope to earn for their sons the sterling virtues of Ganesha. In fact, Ganesha is one of the five prime Hindu deities (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Durga being the other four) whose idolatry is glorified as the panchayatana puja. Few legends are prevalent concerning Ganesha’s birth.

Ganesh, Parvati & Lord ShivaLord Shiva could not afford guards as he had little money. Parvati, (consort of Lord Shiva), while she was having her bath, was often disturbed by visitors. Goddess Parvati, while bathing, created Ganesha as a pure white being out of the mud of Her Body and oil she was using and infused life into it. She placed Him at the entrance of the house. She told Him not to allow anyone to enter while she went inside for a bath. Lord Shiva returned home and tried to enter the place. He was stopped by Ganesha at the gate. Shiva became angry and cut off Ganesha`s head as He thought Ganesha was an outsider.

When Gauri (Parvati) came to know of this she was sorely grieved. Parvati persuaded Shiva to grant her son’s life. To console her grief, Shiva ordered His servants to cut off and bring to Him the head of any creature that might be sleeping with its head facing north. The servants went on their mission and found only an elephant in that position. The sacrifice was thus made and the elephant`s head was brought before Shiva. The Lord then joined the elephant`s head onto the body of Ganesha.

Lord Shiva made His son worthy of worship at the beginning of all undertakings, marriages, expeditions, studies, etc. He ordained that the annual worship of Ganesha should take place on the 4th day of the bright half of Bhadrapada. The Vinayakas exalt him as their head. He is the first recepient of adoration in all the rituals as the removal of obstacles (Vignaharta).

There is another legend about Ganesha’s birth. Parvati being sterile for a long time and desiring to have a son propitiated Vishnu. Vishnu was pleased and Vishnu decided to get himself born as her son. Ganesha was a very good-looking child. Parvati invited all the gods to come and bless him. Shani (ruling god of planet Saturn in Hindu mythology) kept his head averted and did not look at Ganesha. This discourteous behaviour offended Parvati. Shani explained that his look was maleficient owing to a curse of his wife. The proud mother refused to listen and insisted him to bless Ganesha. She told him that Ganesha was himself Lord Vishnu. Shani, encouraged by Parvati, looked at the child and his head blew off. Paravti cursed Shani and he changed into a deformed monster. Elephant head was put on the child’s truncated body and the baby came to life. Parvati was upset at Ganesha’s disfigurement but was appeased when the gods assured her that he would be the first to receive all oblations.

On Ganesh Chaturthi day, devotees are forbidden to look at the moon because the moon had laughed at Ganesha. It is said, that anyone who looks at the moon on the night of the Ganesh Chaturthi will be falsely accused. If someone sees the moon on this night, he/she may remedy the situation by listening to (or reciting) the story of the syamantaka jewel found in the Puranas. However, one can forestall its effects by getting himself abused by neighbours.

Ganesh was known for his ravenous appetite. Once, he ate more modaks (sweet rice balls) than he could digest. He felt uncomfortable and decided to go for an airing into the forest. He was riding his mouse. Suddenly, a snake crossed their path. The mouse took fright and reared, throwing Ganesha down. At this sudden fall, his over-stuffed belly burst and all modaks rolled out. Ganeasha rose and hurried after the rolling modaks. He picked them up one by one and stuffed them back into his stomach. Then, he tied up his stomach using the snake Vasuki to prevent them from falling out again. Watching this, the moon and his wives started laughing. The Moon demi-God laughed and ridiculed Ganesh. Ganesh retaliated by causing the Moon to disappear. Without the Moon the balance of Nature would be affected, hence Shiva requested Ganesh to alter his curse. Shiva also compelled the Moon to apologize. Ganesh said that Moon would not disappear at once but slowly diminish. And, after being absent for a day he would regain his power slowly. This cycle would continue forever. So, that people would remain warned at all times not to make fun of Ganesh. One of the purposes of mythology is to explain natural phenomena. This myth explains the waning and waxing of the moon. krishna was accused of theft of a jewel and had a great difficulty clearing his honour.

Ganesh ChaturthiGanesh chaturthi was started as a public festival ( saravjanik ganeshotsava ) by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Tilak (1856-1920) was a Maharashtrian Brahmin from Poona, who believed that self government could not be achieved by co-operating with the British. His slogan, Swaraj (Home Rule) is My Birthright, was echoed for miles on every side. One of Tilak`s strongest movements to evoke nationalism through religious passions was the organisation of festivals like Ganesh chaturthi in Maharasthra. This inspired the feelings of Hindu unity in Maharashtra. It also gave freedom fighters an opportunity to meet when the British government illegalized any gatherings, writings and slogans that could incite violence.

Ganesh Chaturthi became a major festival of Maharashtra. Huge processions immerse thousands of idols of Lord Ganesha in the Arabian Sea. Worshipers are heard shouting, Ganpati Bapa Morya. The festival has now gained popularity all over India. Celebrations in south India and Gujarat are as spectacular as those of Maharashtra.

A life-like clay model of Lord Ganesha is made 2-3 months prior to the day of Ganesh Chaturthi. The size of this idol may vary from 3/4th of an inch to over 25 feet. On the day of the festival, Ganesha’s idol is placed on raised platforms in homes or in elaborately decorated outdoor tents for people to view and pay their homage. The priest, wearing red silk dhoti and shawl starts the puja (worship) by chanting mantras. This ritual is the pranapratishtha. After this, the shodashopachara (16 ways of paying tribute) follows. Coconut, jaggery, 21 modakas (rice flour preparation), 21 durva (trefoil) blades and red hibiscus flowers are offered. The idol is anointed with red unguent (rakta chandan). Throughout the ceremony, Vedic hymns from the Rig Veda and Ganapati Atharva Shirsha Upanishad, and Ganesha stotra from the Narada Purana are chanted.
Ganesh VisarjanThe festival comes to an end on the day of Anant Chaudas. On this day, the idols of Ganesha are taken from various, localities and puja rooms for a truly royal ride. The streets of Mumbai are packed with multitudes as each locality comes out on the streets with its Ganesha. Amidst shouts of ‘Ganpati Bappa Moriya Pudhchya Varshi Lavkarya’ (Marathi, for Oh Ganpati My Lord, return soon next year), a sea of humanity carries the idols to the waters of Arabian Sea or a river.

The idols are carried into the holy waters, and face the direction of the local community centres, where they started their journey from. Then, they are immersed. This immersion is called visarjan. In other towns and villages, folks carry the idols to the local river or tank for the visarjan ceremony.

In some parts, Ganesha is considered as the god of good harvest. Thus, clay is brought from the waterside and thrown into barns and store-rooms for luck and plenty.

According to the scriptures, Ganesha should be worshipped ritualistically and immersed immediately thereafter. Since divinity in the sculpt made from mud remains only for one day one can immediately immerse them on second day. Man enjoys celebrating festivals and was not satisfied with celebrating it for only one day. Thus, he began festivities by keeping the idol for one and a half, five, seven or ten days. According to the custom, Ganesh should be immersed on the first, second, third, sixth, seventh or tenth day. People take fresh spiritual resolves and pray to Lord Ganesha for inner spiritual strength to attain success in all their undertakings.
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