Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated by Hindus all over India, as the birthday of the god of wisdom, knowledge and prosperity, Lord Ganesha. The celebrations continue from five to ten days, depending upon family traditions. It is believed that praying to Lord Ganesha leads to fulfilment of wishes and desires. His blessing removes all the obstacles from life. Although it is not known when this festival was first celebrated, but it is alleged to have been celebrated in Pune initially. Celebrations were started during the reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji to promote nationalism and give a feeling of unity. Ganapati is the son of Shiva and Parvati; various fables are attached to his birth. This elephant-headed god with Mooshak (rat) as his vehicle was created by Goddess Parvati from the sandalwood dough. It was she who infused life in Ganesha and asked him to guard at the door while she was in her bath. When Lord Shiva returned and was stopped by this unknown child Ganesha, Shiva in rage cut off the head of that child. As soon as Parvati got to know about the severing of head of her son, she asked Shiva to bring him to life again. Shiva then implanted the head of an elephant on Ganesha’s body. This re-birth of Ganesha is celebrated as Ganesha Chaturthi, also known as ‘Vinayaka Chaturthi’ or ‘Vinayaka Chavithi’.
Ganesha Chaturthi is said to have been celebrated since the days of Maratha rulers: Satavahana, Chalukya and Rashtrakuta. Mainly celebrated in the states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh with a lot of zeal and splendour, Ganesha Chaturthi is the most popular festival of Maharashtra. Ganesha Chaturthi was started by Chhatrapati Shivaji as a public event to promote traditions and nationalism, this festival was even celebrated by Peshwas to worship Ganapati as their family deity. The festivities remained a family affair until the festival was revitalised by Bal Gangadhar Tilak in the late 19th Century, to take the message of freedom struggle to all Indians. This festival brought in a feeling of unity and togetherness in Indians that helped in revival of their patriotic spirit. Through the medium of this festival he brought together all the classes of societies against British by getting rid of the caste differences.
He stressed on it that Ganesha Chaturthi was a festival for everyone irrespective of the caste or class, and so he organised cultural events like dance dramas, musical nights, and religious gatherings on this festival. That was the time when social and political gatherings weren’t allowed by the British. Festivals like Ganesha Chaturthi that continued for ten days gave people of every religion the scope to interact and know each other. It is from that time this festival has been celebrated every year with great fervour all over the country. Although the festival lasts for ten days, the arrangements begin with the preparations of idols two to three months prior to Ganesha Chaturthi. These clay idols are huge and are carved by skilled craftsmen, depicting Ganapati in various poses. Then few days before the puja day, people start to clean their houses, or may be get their homes white-washed. Ganesha Mandap or Ganesha Pandal is decorated with flowers and leaves of coconut or banana, several days before the beginning of the festivities.
After the cleaning and decking up of the place, the place is prepared for establishment of idol of Lord Ganesha. People take bath early in the morning on the day of Ganapati puja; they wear new clothes and perform the puja with all the rituals. Idols of Ganesha are bought from the shops and are taken to the homes, temples or pandals with the faces of covered with a saffron cloth. Chanting of prayers in the praise of the Lord continues all the way. These days it is advised to buy eco-friendly idols of Lord Ganesha. These idols of Lord Ganesha are then placed at the podium, at a place where puja is held. Ganapati’s idols is then beautified with floral garlands and sandalwood paste and A kalash containing holy water or rice is then placed before the Lord’s statue, it is known as Purna Kumbha. After this, the prayers are performed to invoke the presence of Lord in the idol by the priest. This ritual is called Pranpratishhtha. Chanting of mantras and hymns takes place while the custom of pranpratishhtha is completed. After that, a 16-fold praying procedure, Shodashopachara is followed: Aavaahana, Aasana, Paadya, Arghya, Aachamana, Madhuparka, Snaana, Vastra, Gandha, Pushpa, Dhoopa, Deepa, Naivedya, Taamblooa, Aarati, and Mantrapushpa.
According to the Hindu mythology and religious beliefs Lord Ganesha symbolises good luck and wisdom. This is why he is worshipped first before starting any good work. On the auspicious occasion of Ganesha Chaturthi, people bring the idols of Lord Ganesha home to take the blessings in the form of good luck, intelligence, prosperity and good health. They perform the pooja, observe fast and say thanks by paying homage and celebrating Lord Ganesha coming to their place. People eagerly wait for this occasion the whole year so that they can be present at the service of Lord Ganesha and apologise for the mistakes which they have committed. They also make promises to follow the path of honesty and kindness and to serve the mankind. There are various legends related to the celebration of Ganesha Chaturthi and people have great belief on these religious stories. Read to know more about the legends of Ganesha Chaturthi.
Birth Of Lord Ganesha
One day when Goddess Parvati was taking bath she made a boy from the dough she used for her bath and put life into it. This is how Ganesha was born and she told him to stand on the main doorway of the house. Then, there came Lord Shiva and while going in the house he was stopped on the gate by Ganesha on orders of her mother. Lord Shiva became very angry and cut off Ganesha’s head with his trident. When Goddess Parvati came out and saw all this, she, in her anger, asked Lord Shiva to make her son alive or to see her destroying the world. Lord Shiva then went to the earth with Lord Vishnu and took the head of the very first living being to fix it on the body of Ganesha. It was the head of an elephant. After this, Lord Shiva apologised and declared that Lord Ganesha will be worshipped before all the gods and goddesses.
Leader Of The Gods
One day Lord Shiva and other gods decided to choose their leader from Ganesha and Kartikeya, and for this, a race was held between the two brothers. It is said that whoever took seven rounds of the earth first would be made the Ganadhipati or the leader of the gods. The race started and Kartikeya sat on his vehicle, peacock and Ganesha sat on his vehicle, rat. Kartikeya went to complete the seven rounds but then Ganesha realised that it was not easy task for him as his vehicle was a small rat. So, he with his intelligence took seven rounds of his parents, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, and paid obeisance to them. He said that, “my parents pervade the whole universe and going around them is more than going round the earth.” All the Gods and Goddesses were surprised to listen the logic of Lord Ganesha and to see his knowledge. Thus, Ganesha completed the race first and came to be popularly known as the Ganadhipati or the leader, which is now referred to as Ganapati.
Ganesha And Single Tusk
This legend is related to the symbolic snake, rat and the single tusk. On one of Lord Ganesha’s birthdays, his mother Goddess Parvati prepared 21 types of delicacies and sweet porridge in large amount. He ate so much of it that his big pot-shaped belly could not contain it. He, then on his vehicle, rat, went on his nightly rounds but all of a sudden his mouse stumbled to see a big snake. Lord Ganesha fell down and the entire food came out as his pot-shaped belly burst and then, he put that snake as a belt around his belly. Seeing this, the moon started laughing and this made Lord Ganesha very angry. He then broke off one of his tusks and threw it at the moon. He then cursed the moon that whoever looks at it on the occasion of Ganesha Chaturthi will be accused of doing wrong. It is why looking at the moon on the festival of Ganesha Chaturthi is considered inauspicious.
Shiva And Gajasura
There was a demon (asura) called Gajasura who had all the characteristics of an elephant. He went into penance to please Lord Shiva and became successful in doing so. When Lord Shiva asked his wish, the demon said that he could emanate fire from his body continuously so that no one can come close to him. Lord Shiva granted his wish then again he continued his penance and again Lord Shiva came and asked his wish. This time the demon said, “I desire that you inhabit my stomach.” This wish was also granted by Lord Shiva and he resided in the stomach of the demon. Later, when Goddess Parvati could not find her husband, Lord Shiva, she asked Lord Vishnu to find him instead. Lord Vishnu knew everything and this why he reassured her and said, “Don’t worry, dear sister, your husband is Bhola Shankara and promptly grants to his devotees whatever they ask of him, without regard for the consequences; for this reason, I think he has put himself into some trouble. I will find out what has happened.” Then, Lord Vishnu changed Nandi (the bull of Shiva) into a dancing bull and conducted him before Gajasura and changed himself into a flutist.
The pleasing performance of the bull sent the demon into ecstasies and he got impressed. He then asked the flutist his demand, then Lord Vishnu as the flutist said that whatever he will ask for whether the demon will give or not. Gajasura told yes and then the flutist asked to take out Lord Shiva from his stomach. The demon quickly understood that the flutist was no other than Lord Vishnu. He freed Lord Shiva and asked for his last gift and said, “I have been blessed by you with many gifts; my last request is that everyone remembers me adoring my head when I am dead.” To fulfil this last wish of Gajasura, Lord Shiva brought his son at that place and replaced his head with that of Gajasura.