Ganesh Chaturthi (also known as Vināyaka Caturthi, Gaṇēśa Caturthī or Vināyaka Cavithi) is the Hindu festival celebrated in honour of the elephant-headed god Ganesha. Chaturthi (Hindi चतुर्थी) means “fourth day” or “fourth state”. Celebrations are traditionally held on the fourth day of the first fortnight (Shukla Chaturthi) in the month of Bhaadrapada in the Hindu calendar, usually August or September in the Gregorian calendar. This festival lasts ten days, ending on the fourteenth day of the fortnight Anant Chaturdashi.
Although it is unknown when (or how) Ganesh Chaturthi was first observed, the festival has been publicly celebrated in Pune, since the era of Shivaji (1630–1680, founder of the Maratha Empire).The Peshwas (hereditary administrators of the empire from 1718 until its end in 1818) encouraged the celebrations in their capital, Pune. Since Ganesha was their family god (Kuladevta) with the fall of the Peshwas, the Ganesha festival lost state patronage and became a private family celebration in Maharashtra until its revival by Indian freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak. He changed the festival from a private celebration to a grand public event “to bridge the gap between Brahmins and non-Brahmins and find an appropriate context in which to build a new grassroots unity between them”.
The current Maharashtra public festival was introduced in 1892 by Bhausaheb Laxman Javale, who installed the first sarvajanik (public) idol. Encouraged by Tilak, Ganesh Chaturthi facilitated community participation and involvement in the forms of intellectual discourse, poetry recitals, plays, concerts, and folk dances. It was a meeting ground for people from all castes and communities at a time when the British discouraged social and political gatherings to control the population.
Ganesha is known by 108 different names and is the Lord of arts and sciences and the deva of wisdom. He is honoured at the start of rituals and ceremonies as he’s considered the God of beginnings. He’s widely and dearly referred to as Ganapati or Vinayaka.
There are two different versions about Ganesha’s birth. One has it that Goddess Parvati created Ganesha out of dirt off her body while having a bath and set him to guard her door while she finishes her bath. Shiva who has gone out, returned at that time, but as Ganesha didn’t know of him, stopped him from entering. An angry Shiva severed the head of Ganesha after a combat between the two. Parvati was enraged and Shiva promised Ganesha will live again. The Devas who went in search of a head facing north of a dead person could manage only the head of an elephant. Shiva fixed the elephant’s head on the child and brought him back to life.
The other legend has it that Ganesha was created by Shiva and Parvati on request of the Devas, to be a vighnakartaa (obstacle-creator) in the path of rakshasas (demonic beings), and a vighnahartaa (obstacle-averter) to help the Devas.
The festival is celebrated in public and at home. The public celebration involves installing clay images of Ganesha in public places (temporary shrines) and group worship. At home, an appropriately-sized clay image is installed and worshiped with family and friends. At the end of the festival, the idols are immersed (and dissolve) in a body of water such as a lake or pond.
At home, families decorate a small, clean corner with flowers and other colorful items before installing the idol. Public preparations begin weeks in advance with temporary structures (such as Mandaps and Pandals) funded by contributions from local residents and businesses. When the idol is installed, it and its shrine are decorated with flowers and other materials. There are four main rituals during the festival – Pranapratishhtha – the process of infusing the deity into a murti or idol, Shhodashopachara – 16 forms of paying tribute to Ganesha, Uttarpuja – Puja after which the idol could be shifted after it’s infusion, Ganpati Visarjan – immersion of the Idol in the river.
Foodies wait for Modak, a sweet dish prepared using rice or flour stuffed with grated jaggery, coconuts and dry fruits. The plate containing the Modak is supposed to be filled with twenty-one pieces of the sweet.
Ganesha brings happiness in our home, and crowd loves him for his tender nature and devotees devote themselves to Ganesha during this festival and people believe Lord Ganesha will fulfill their every wish. And, at the time of Visarjan, we wish Ganesha to again come at our home next year.