Ganesh Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chaturthi is a 10-day-festival celebrated during the month of ‘Bhadra’ (mid August or September). This year it starts from August 25 and ends on September 5. Ganeshotsav is celebrated all over India with a lot of enthusiasm in order to celebrate Lord Ganesh's birthday. It is one of the most colorful and exciting 10-day long celebrations.
Ganesha Chaturthi has its historical significance right from the time of Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji. Celebrations were started in Maharashtra by this Marathi ruler in order to promote culture and nationalism. Eminent Freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak saw this festival as an opportunity to bring people together. He used the grand mass celebrations to unite the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins when he saw that all sections of the society celebrated the festival with equal emotions.
The auspicious festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is an important festival in Maharashtra but is also celebrated with much delight in the states like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. There are many stories linked with the history of this festival but the most relevant one is associated with his parents Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. It is believed that Goddess Parvati created little Ganesha using the dirt off her body and then set to guard her privacy while she had her bath. Unknowingly, little Ganesh stopped Lord Shiva entering their abode. Lord Shiva got angry and severed the head of the little child. Parvati was heart – broken and to make her happy Lord Shiva promised her to give Ganesha a new life.
Two-three months prior to the festival, beautiful clay models of Lord Ganesh are made by skilled craftsperson and sold in the markets. On the day of Ganesh Chaturthi, people bring home a Ganesha idol with great enthusiaism. The aarti takes place twice a day. Offerings to the idol are made in the form of karanjis and modaks which is considered to be Ganesha’s favorite. 21 modaks are offered to the idol after which they are distributed to the devotees. Some even elaborate pandals with decorations and lighting around grand Ganesha idol. The priests in pandals perform four main holy rituals.
- Pranapratishhtha: in order to invoke life into the statues amidst the chanting of sacred verses.
- Shhodashopachara: This kind of rituals involve paying tribute to the Lord in 16 various forms
- Uttarpuja: pooja in which the idol could be shifted from one place to another
- Ganpati Visarjan: It is the immersion of the idol in water on the last day (Anant Chaturdashi)
The visarjan is followed by loud chanting of "Ganpati Bappa Morya, Pudcha Varshi Lokar Ya" which means calling the deity back to their homes as soon as possible next year. It is believed that reciting 108 names of Lord Ganesha during the festival brings good luck to the devotees. Lord Ganesha is also worshiped in countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Nepal, and China.