Ganesh Chaturthi or Ganesh Utsav or the birthday of Ganesha (the elephant-headed God of Wisdom and Prosperity) falls on the fourth day of the Hindu month of Bhadrapada (around August-September). It is celebrated all across India and is the biggest festival in Maharashtra. Ganesha is India’s cutest god. He has the head of an elephant on which is perched a dainty tiara, four podgy hands joined to a sizeable belly with each hand holding its own symbolic object. One has a trishul, or a trident, the second, an ankush, or goad made from his very own broken tooth, the third hand elegantly holds a lotus and the fourth a rosary (which is sometimes replaced by modaks – his favourite sweet). Ganesha is famous not only for being a trickster and for his sense of humour, but equally for his wisdom. He is the son of Shiva (Destroyer in the Hindu Holy Trinity of Creator-Preserver-Destroyer) and Parvati (Shiva’s consort) .
Although the Ganesha Chaturthi festival falls in the month of Bhado (August-September) but the preparations for the celebrations starts well in advance. Beautiful idols of Lord Ganesha, small and large, are made. The spirituality and enthusiasm dominates the entire atmosphere. Ganesh Puja : On the festive day these idols are placed in the house holds and public mandaps. Then the ritual of the Pranapratishhtha Pooja is performed to invoke the holy presence of Lord Ganesha into the idol followed by the worship with sixteen modes of showing honor, known as Shhodashopachara. Offering of Durva (grass) blades and modaka, a delicacy prepared from rice flour, jaggery, and coconut, is an important part of the Ganesha Chaturthi puja. Ganesha is also offered red flowers, and anointed with a red chandan. For next 10 days, the Ganesha temples, each house hold and large mandaps are swayed away by the name of their most loved God Ganesha. On 11th day, the procession ceremony of the immersion of the image/idol in a water body is performed to see-off the lord and praying him to take away all misfortunes and come again next year.
Rituals and Legends of Ganesh Chaturthi
The puja of Lord Ganesh or Ganesha on the Ganesha Chaturathi day is to be performed at noon. A clay image of the God, painted beautifully, is installed on a raised platform. After the usual preliminary rituals, the Pranapratishhtha must be done with the appropriate mantras. This Pranapratishhtha is done for the purpose of invoking the presence of Lord Ganesha into the image. This is followed by the worship with sixteen modes of showing honor, known as Shhodashopachara.
Offering of Durva (grass) blades and modaka, a delicacy prepared from rice flour, jaggery, and coconut, is an important part of the Ganesh Chaturathi puja. Ganesha is also offered red flowers, and anointed with a red chandana. The immersion of the image in a body of water is ceremonially performed at the end of the chaturathi vrata.
According to Hindu mythological scriptures Lord Ganesha was formed by Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva. It is said that one day Parvati formed a sculpture from the paste that she used on her body before taking bath. She infused life in that figure and ordered him to guard the entrance of her bathroom. God Shiva returned and stopped at the entrance of his house by that boy. In extreme rage Shiva struck off the boy’s head. This incident filled Parvati in utter grief and requested Shiva to return her son. Then Shiva fixed the head of an elephant and restored life onto the body of that boy. Lord Shiva named this boy as ‘Ganpati’ Gan means (hosts) & Pati means (Chief) and blessed that Ganpati would be worshipped before every new venture.