Ganesh Chaturthi, is the birthday of Hindu God Ganesha (Vinayaka), the God of wisdom, prosperity and auspiciousness. Ganesha is today worshiped around the world and the Elephant-faced Hindu god is one of the most popular deities associated with Hinduism. Like symbol ‘Om’, Ganesha is slowly becoming the face of Hindu religion. The Vinayaka Chaturthi Festival ends with the immersion (Visarjan) of the muti (idol) on Ananta Chaturdasi day.
Ganesh Chaturthi falls on the fourth day after new moon in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada (August – September).
Ganesha is the remover of obstacle – Vighneshwara or Vignaraja – and is always invoked when Hindus are beginning a new enterprise. It is believed that Goddess Parvati created Ganesha out of clay and breathed life into him. Letting him stand guard at the door, Goddess Parvati went to have her bath. When her husband, Lord Shiva returned, the child who had never seen him stopped him. Ganesha did not allow Shiva to enter and finally an enraged Shiva severed the head of the child. Goddess Parvati returned to find her son dead and was distraught and asked Shiva to revive him. Shiva cut off the head of an elephant and fixed it on the body of Ganesha and giving birth to elephant-headed Ganesha.
In Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated for 10 days. In other parts of India, it is celebrated for one day on the Ganesh Chaturthi day. On the day special prayers are performed in all Hindu homes and hymns and songs are sung in praise of Lord Ganesha.
The origin of public celebration of Ganesh festival is traced to the period of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja, the great Maratha ruler, who asked people to perform public celebration to promote culture and nationalism in the 17th century.
The large-scale Ganesh festival of today was revived by Lokmanya Tilak, freedom fighter, in the last decade of 19th century in Pune to spread the message of freedom struggle and to defy the British who had banned public assemblies.
Thousands of Ganesh statues are installed in various public places in India and in Hindu Temples around the world. Millions of small Ganesh idols are installed in Hindu homes in India, especially in Maharashtra, Goa and Andhra Pradesh. After the festival these statues are immersed in the sea (Ganesh Visarjan ceremony).
Ganesh Festival is also attracting lot of criticism from environmentalists and nature lovers primarily due to pollution caused by the use of Ganesh idols made of Plaster of Paris. Hinduism and Nature are so entwined that one cannot be separated from another. Ganesha itself is a classic example. But still we Hindus do little to stop pollution. At least we can stop creating more pollution in the name of Ganesha by only buying natural Ganesh idol and natural items for Ganesh Puja.
Happy Ganesh Chaturthi!