Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated every year to mark the birth anniversary of Lord Ganesha. It is a ten days long celebration starting from the fourth day of the Shukla fortnight of the Hindu Lunisolar month of Bhadrapada and it ends on the fourteenth day of this fortnight. This festival is also called Vinayak Chaturthi and is one of the major festivals in Maharashtra.
Significance of Ganesha Chaturthi
This festival is very significant as it is the birth anniversary of the God of the new beginning. Lord Ganesha has a special place in the Hindu religion as no auspicious act can be done without worshipping Ganesha in the beginning. Without his blessings no new act can be performed, especially a religious act like havan, prayer etc. Lord Ganesha was blessed by his father Lord Shiva to be worshipped before beginning any new work or religious celebrations. Lord Shiva announced Lord Ganesha to be worshipped first in any and every kind of puja before any God because of his great wisdom and intellectual prowess.No prayer is considered fruitful if Lord Ganesha is not worshipped in the beginning. Ganesha is considered to be the Lord of wisdom, intellect, fortune and Luck. He is also considered the God of Arts and science. The Elephant-headed God is the youngest child of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
History of Ganesha Chaturthi
Goddess Parvati made a baby doll using sandalwood paste. She liked the baby doll so much, that she decided to bring it to life. She asked this baby to guard her palace while she was taking her bath. In the meanwhile, Lord Shiva came to the palace and the baby refused to let him in. this enraged Lord Shiva and he ordered his Ganas or the soldiers to remove the boy from the door of the palace. They could not budge Ganesha and a fierce fight was fought. When Lord Shiva saw that the boy was very powerful and his soldiers would not be able to handle him, he himself killed the boy by beheading him. When Goddess Parvati saw the baby beheaded, she became very angry and decided to destroy the whole world. She was pacified by Shiva by promising to bring the baby back to life. He ordered his Ganas to bring the head of the first living being they see. It was a baby elephant and they brought his head to Lord Shiva. He attached the head of the baby elephant to the body and brought the baby back to life and blessed him to be the head of his Ganas or soldiers and also to be worshipped at the beginning of any new event. He got his name Ganesha by being the head of the Ganas of Lord Shiva. He is also called Ganapati.
Rituals performed during Ganesha Chaturthi Celebrations
Ganesha Chaturthi is a ten days long festival with four main rituals. The preparations of the festival begin weeks before the festival. People start making clay idols of Lord Ganesha in different sizes. People not only celebrate this festival publicly but also individually in their houses. They bring the Ganesha idols in their home and worship them for ten days or less depending upon their convenience and capacity and they immerse the idols in the rivers or sea.
There are four main rituals performed by the people who bring Ganesha in their house or in the temples or Pandals. These rituals are PranaPratishtha, Shhoddashopachara, Uttarpuja and Ganpati Visarjan.
When Ganesha is brought, puja is done to infuse the deity into the idol or in other words we can say it is like bringing the idol into life by infusing Ganesha in it. This idol is considered to be Ganesha himself and is worshipped for ten days with offerings of Ganesha’s favourites modak, shrikhand, payasam, coconut rice, motichoorladdoo and other sweets.Shhoddashopachara means the sixteen ways in which tribute is paid to Ganesha during this stay. Then Uttarpuja of Ganesha is done before removing the idol after infusion of pranas in it. Finally, the idol is immersed in water and this is called Ganesha Visarjan.