Ganesha Chaturthi गणेश चतुर्थी is the Hindu festival celebrated on the birthday (rebirth) of the lord Ganesha, the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati.
It is believed that Lord Ganesh bestows his presence on earth for all his devotees during this festival. Ganesha is widely worshiped as the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune and traditionally invoked at the beginning of any new venture or at the start of travel. The festival, also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi (“festival of Ganesha”) is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Bhaadrapada, starting on the shukla chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon period). The festival lasts for 10 days, ending on Anant Chaturdashi (fourteenth day of the waxing moon period).
During these 10 days, there are traditions and rituals that people perform during the Ganesh Chaturthi Hindu festival. People begin preparing months in advance by making check lists, selecting eco-friendly idols, reading up yummy recipes and thinking of innovating decoration ideas to celebrate the festival in an ostentatious manner. Hindus also follow the rituals in Bringing Home the Ganesha Idol, many of whom choose to perform the Ganesh Staphna (Installation of the Idol) by themselves including performing the Ganesh Visarjan (Immersion).
While celebrated all over India, it is most elaborate in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, Kerala and Chhattisgarh. Outside India, it is celebrated widely in Nepal and by Hindus in the United States, Canada, Mauritius, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, Fiji, Trinidad & Tobago, and Guyana.
When is Ganesh Chaturthi?
Late August or early September, depending on the cycle of the moon. It falls on the fourth day after new moon in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada.
One of the best places to experience the festival is in the city of Mumbai. Celebrations take place in a special way at the towering Siddhivinayak temple, located in the central suburb of Prabhadevi, which is dedicated to Lord Ganesha. An incalculable number of devotees visit the temple to join in prayers and pay their respects to the God during the festival. In addition, around 10,000 statues of Lord Ganesh are displayed at various locations in the city.
How is it Celebrated?
The festival begins with the installation of huge elaborately crafted statutes of Ganesha in homes and podiums, which have been especially constructed and beautifully decorated. Artisans put months of effort into making the statues. It’s forbidden to look at the moon on this first night as legend had it the moon laughed at Lord Ganesha when he fell from his vehicle, the rat. On Ananta Chaturdasi (the last day), the statues are paraded through the streets, accompanied by much singing and dancing, and then immersed in the ocean or other bodies of water. In Mumbai alone, more than 150,000 statues are immersed each year!
What Rituals are Performed?
Once a statue of Lord Ganesh is installed, a ceremony is undertaken to invoke his holy presence into the statue. This ritual is called the Pranapratishhtha Puja, during which a number of mantras are recited. Following this a special worship is performed. Offerings of sweets, flowers, rice, coconut, jaggery and coins are made to the God. The statue is also anointed with red chandan powder. Prayers are offered to Lord Ganesha every day during the festival. Temples devoted to Lord Ganesha also organize special events and prayers. Those who have a Ganesha statue in their house treat and care for him as a much loved guest.
Why are the Ganesh Statues Immersed in Water at the End of the Festival?
Hindus worship idols, or statues, of their gods because it gives them a visible form to pray to. They also recognize that the universe is in a constant state of change. Form eventually gives away to formlessness. However, the energy still remains. The immersion of the statues in the ocean, or other bodies of water, and subsequent destruction of them serves as a reminder of this belief.
Swami Sivananda Recommends
On the Ganesh Chaturthi day, meditate on the stories connected with Lord Ganesha early in the morning, during the Brahmamuhurta period. Then, after taking a bath, go to the temple and do the prayers of Lord Ganesha. Offer Him some coconut and sweet pudding. Pray with faith and devotion that He may remove all the obstacles that you experience on the spiritual path. Worship Him at home, too. You can get the assistance of a pundit. Have an image of Lord Ganesha in your house. Feel His Presence in it. Don’t forget not to look at the moon on that day; remember that it behaved unbecomingly towards the Lord. This really means avoid the company of all those who have no faith in God, and who deride God, your Guru and religion, from this very day.
Take fresh spiritual resolves and pray to Lord Ganesha for inner spiritual strength to attain success in all your undertakings.
May the blessings of Sri Ganesha be upon you all! May He remove all the obstacles that stand in your spiritual path! May He bestow on you all material prosperity as well as liberation!