Ganesh Chaturthi Festival
Ganesh Chaturthi celebrates the birth of the popular and beloved Hindu god, Lord Ganesha. Ganesha is believed to have the power to remove obstacles and bestow good fortune. The festival is celebrated by the entire community in a very public manner. Local communities vie with each other to create the best Ganesha statue and display.
The festival is celebrated in late August or early September, depending on the moon’s cycle. It’s the fourth day after the new moon in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada. In 2019, Ganesh Chaturthi will be celebrated on Monday, September 2. The festival goes on for 11 days. The grandest spectacle can be witnessed on the last day called Anant Chaturdasi day, which is September 12, 2019.
Ganesh Chaturthi commences with people installing huge and elaborately crafted statutes of Ganesha in homes and pandals. These are beautifully decorated and it takes several months of effort by artisans. It's not allowed to look at the moon on the first night as according to legend, the moon mocked Lord Ganesha when he fell from his vahan or vehicle, the rat. On the last day or Ananta Chaturdasi, the statues are taken through the streets, accompanied by crowds who sing and dance. Finally, they are immersed in the ocean or other water bodies.
Ganesha Chaturthi in Mumbai
Lord Ganesha is seen as the patron saint of Maharashtra and hence the festival is celebrated grandly in the state. The entire state will be filled with lights and Mumbai is one of the best places to witness the celebration. The Siddhivinayak temple, situated in Prabhadevi, especially attracts many devotees during this time. Hordes of visit the temple during this time. Thousands of statues of Lord Ganesh are displayed at various locations across the city. More than one lakh statues are immersed in Mumbai alone each year! The preparations for the festival begin months ahead of the event. Donations are solicited for erecting Pandals which are usually hosted by businesses or community organizations. In Maharashtra, the making of the idol or ‘murti’ begins with "Padya pooja" (worshipping Ganesha’s feet). The idols are taken to the "pandals" on the day of the festival or a day before it. The pandals will be well-lit and elaborately decorated.
For the festival, clay idols of Ganesha are installed in homes and on elaborate pandals. After the house is cleaned, the idol is brought inside with the family members chanting religious hymns. There will be chanting of Vedic hymns, religious texts, prayers and vrata (fasting). Sweets like modak are the usual offerings for worship and these will be distributed after the pooja. Modak is believed to be a favorite of Lord Ganesh The festival ends with a public procession, accompanied by music and group chanting, followed by immersion in a nearby water body like a river or sea. Once the clay idol dissolves in the water, it is believed that Ganesha returns to his heavenly abode. The farewell procession provides an exciting climax to the festival. The Lord’s idol is carried by the devotees and a motley crowd comprising dancers, singers, acrobats, priests and onlookers follow the procession. Before the idol is immersed in the Arabian Sea, coconuts, sweets, flowers and Aarti are offered to the idol. This ritual is called 'Ganesh Visarjan' . Loud chants of 'Ganapati Bappa Morya' (slogan praising Lord Ganesha) fill the air during the procession and immersion. The immersion at Chowpatti Beach, 1km from Marine Drive, is very prominent. Large crowds flock to the beach to witness the spectacle. The processions begin in the morning and go on till late night. There are also public celebrations called Sarvajanik Ganeshotsava. Community poojas may be held in every locality as well.
Free medical checkups, blood-donation drives and donations to the poor may also be organized on this occasion. Ganesh Chaturthi is also an important economic activity in places like Mumbai, Pune, Surat, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore. Artists, businesses and industries make good money during the festival. One of the heartening aspects of Ganesha Chaturthi festival is that members of other religions also take part in the celebration. In fact, many artists involved in making the Ganesha idols are Muslims.
Ganesh Chaturthi in Other States
The festival is observed throughout India. States like Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Telengana, Karnataka, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala also celebrate it. Ganesh Chaturthi is also celebrated in Nepal and by the Hindu diaspora in other countries. In Andhra Pradesh, at Varasidhi Vinayaka Swamy Temple in Kanipakam, annual brahmotsavams will be held for 21 days, beginning from Vinayaka Chavithi day. The deity will also be taken in a procession on these days.
In Tamil Nadu, the festival is called Vinayaka Chaturthi or Pillayar Chaturthi. It comes on the fourth day after the new moon in Āvaṇi month (September – October) in the Tamil calendar. Clay or papier-mâché is used to make the idols. Coconuts and other organic materials also can be used to make the idols. After being worshipped for many days, the idols are immersed in the Bay of Bengal. The festival is called Lamboodhara Piranalu and it falls in the month of Chingam. In the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram, a procession of Ganesha statues wends its way from the Pazhavangadi Ganapathi Temple to Shankumugham Beach, where they will be immersed in the sea.
Ganesha Pooja at Home
People planning to celebrate the festival at home make purchases such as puja items or accessories some days in advance. The Ganesh murti will be booked a month beforehand, usually from local artisans. The idol will be brought home either on the day of the festival or a day before. Flowers and other items will be used to decorate a clean area of the house before the idol is installed. The idol and the shrine too are then decorated with flowers and other things. On the festival day, the clay idol will be ceremonially installed along with the chanting of holy mantras and pooja. Bhajans may be sung too. The clay models of Ganesha usually range in size from 3⁄4 inch for homes to more than 70 ft for large celebrations.
History of Ganesh Chaturthi
The origin of this festival in Mumbai has been traced back to the Maratha chieftain, Shivaji, who began it to promote nationalistic feelings and cultural harmony among his people. In 1882, the festival got a fresh lease of life when Bal Gangadhar Tilak revived it. he saw it as a good platform to spread the message of the freedom struggle. As people from all communities took part in it, it soon became a religious as well as social function. This helped to unify Indians and create a spirit of oneness. The festival provided an occasion to deliver stirring speeches against British rule.