Ganesh or Ganpati is worshipped all over the world as the God of wisdom and prosperity. The supreme deity is always remembered before carrying out an important task or when one is bothered by misfortune. Devotees associate Ganesh with removal of obstacles, granting success and protection against adversity.
According to Hindu Mythology, Lord Ganesh is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. There are many interesting tales linked with the birth of the elephant-headed God. One of them suggests that once before going for a bath, Goddess Parvati created a human figure, gave him life and asked him to guard the door. At the same time, Lord Shiva appeared to meet his consort, but was stopped by the stranger guarding at the door. Seeing the boldness of the creature, Shiva got furious and beheaded him, whom he later found out to be Parvati’s son. The ganas (attendants) of Shiva were sent off immediately to get him the head of the first living creature they could find. The first creature happened to be an elephant and as instructed, the head was brought to Lord Shiva who placed in on the son’s body. He was brought back to life and named Ganesh which means the chief of the ganas of Shiva.
Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most sacred festivals of India, celebrated as the birthday of Lord Ganesha across the country. Hindu community particularly in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat celebrates it with a lot of vivacity and delight. In the Hindu calendar, it is observed in the month of Bhadra that is mid August-mid September and lasts for 11 days.
The festival preparations begin 2-3 months in advance. People divide themselves among different communities or pandals. A beautiful and colorful idol, often 15 to 25 feet in height of the elephant-headed Lord Ganesha is made and worshipped by each pandal during the 11 days of the celebration. The first day of the festival is marked by the ritual called ‘pranapratishhtha’. The Ganesha idol is installed in the pandal by a priest while chanting mantras (holy verses) and singing hymns. This is followed by ‘shodashopachara’ or the 16 ways of paying tribute. Offerings are made by the devotees in the form of coconut, sweets, red flowers, sheaves of grass, vermilion, turmeric powder and rice. Hymns from the Rigveda and Ganesha Stotra from Narada Purana are chanted throughout the worship. Like any other traditional Indian festival, people take part in the festivities by decorating their homes and shops, getting together with their families and friends, and exchanging sweets and gifts. In some states, Ganesha idol is placed outside the homes, with a plate of vermilion and turmeric powder, so that every person walking by can easily feel blessed by Ganesha by putting a pinch of the powder on his forehead. The celebrations come to an end on the eleventh day, called Anant Chaudas. This ceremony is a farewell to the Lord who before his journey towards Kailash, takes away with him all the obstacles of men. The Ganesha idols from various pandals on this day are taken through the streets of the city for visarjan and are later immersed in a river or sea. Streets are swarming with devotees singing Ganapati hymns and dancing enthusiastically. Even from a considerable distance one can hear the zealous chanting of “Ganpati Bappa Morya Purchya Varshi Laukariya” (Oh Ganapati my Lord, come back soon next year).
After making the final offerings of coconut, camphor and flowers, the idol is finally immersed in the water by the communities, who await his arrival the next year.
There could hardly be a home in India without a Ganpati idol installed in it, irrespective of the religion the family belongs to. Revered as the Lord of Obstacles, the auspicious deity is worshipped during every festival and before starting any new venture. The fearless guardian of Parvati’s door continues to perform his role, as many temples place his idol at the entrance keep out the unworthy. Marriages and other important ceremonies are complete only with chanting of mantras such as Om Shri Ganeshay Namah.
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