Ganesha Chaturthi is a Hindu festival celebrated to mark the birth of Lord Ganesha. Ganesh Chaturthi is on the fourth lunar day of the bright phase of the lunar month (Shukla Paksha) of Bhadrapad (August-September). In 2022 it was on Wednesday, August 31st, and for 2023 it will be on Tuesday, September 19.
In Vedic astrology, it is believed that this lunar day (Chaturthi tithi) is ruled by Ganesha, the deity who eliminates obstacles and bestows wealth and good luck. Therefore, everyone who seeks to achieve his blessings observes fasting at this time and performs offering rituals.
It is necessary to abstain from food, from sunrise to the moon’s appearance in the sky; it is very favorable to read mantras and burn incense and candles in front of a statuette or image of a deity.
Birth of Lord Ganesha
Many versions are available regarding Lord Ganesha’s birth, so it is not easy to determine which story is true. However, the best version is regarded as that of Matsya Purana’s book, but the Brahma Vaivarta Purana version, among others, is also known.
A version of the Matsya Purana
While Lord Shiva was spending a season of meditation in the forest, Goddess Parvati felt lonely, so she created a son from the dirt of her body. She then ordered him to safeguard the entrance and prevent anyone from entering till she finished bathing. When Lord Shiva returned, Ganesha stopped him; furious and unaware of Ganesha, he cut off his head with his Trishula.
Parvati, on seeing this, wept bitterly; she asked Shiva to resurrect her son or she would destroy the universe. Lord Shiva then sent his Gana to search for a head. They found an elephant first and cut off his head.
After the resurrection of Lord Ganesha, all the Gods bestowed him with special gifts and powers. Lord Shiva declared him the lord of Ganas.
Version of the Brahma Vaivarta Purana
According to Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Shiva advised Parvati to perform fasting in honor of Lord Vishnu. The fasting lasted for several days; she found a child in her room after its completion.
Happy about the birth, the other gods went to meet the child, but Shani (planet Saturn) did not wish to look at him because his wife cursed him, promising that everything he looked at would be destroyed.
Incredulous, Parvati persuaded Shani that nothing would happen. But when he saw him, the head of Ganesha flew off to the sky rendering the body lifeless. Lord Vishnu went down to the Pushpabhadra river and found an elephant.
Vishnu cut off the elephant’s head and brought it to Parvati. Ganesha was revived, and Shiva named him the chief of the Gana.
History of the Ganesha Chaturthi Celebration
The festival Ganesh Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chaturthi designed to honor and celebrate the birth of the god Ganesha does not have an exact date of origin; however, it is commonly accepted that the earliest recorded celebration was between 1630 and 1680, during the reign of King Shivaji.
After the British invasion of India, the celebration was limited to private homes due to British fear that large religious celebrations would breed chaos and dissension. The festival was not celebrated in public again until 1892, when a public idol of Ganesha was displayed in Pune, India. The public celebration was initiated by Indian Freedom Fighter, Bal Gangadhar Tilak (by name: Lokmanya Tilak) in 1883 as a way to unite all people of the Hindu faith, and from there, it spread like wildfire.
Ganesha Chaturthi Celebration in India
In India, the festival lasts ten days. The Ganesha Chaturthi festival is celebrated all over India and in all Indian diasporas around the world. It is held especially solemnly and brightly in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Long before the festival, master artisans prepare clay figures of the god Ganesha.
Houses, apartments, and offices are carefully cleaned before the celebration, and the figures of Ganesha are installed indoors. Before the images, special services are held, mantras are read, and hymns are sung throughout the ten days of the feast. Special sweets are prepared and presented first to Ganesha and then distributed to all relatives, friends, and neighbors.
On the eleventh day of the Vinayaka Chaturthi, statues of Ganesha are carried through the streets. They are accompanied by crowds of people who dance, sing, and play musical instruments. The Ganesh statue (murti) is worshipped in the evening with offerings of flowers, strands of grasses, and desiccated coconut (coconut flakes). The festival ends after 10 days on Anant Chaturdashi with the ceremonial immersion of Ganesh’s statue (Ganesh Visarjan) in water bodies (sea or river).
Ganesha Chaturthi Celebration in Nepal
The festival is also celebrated in Nepal; devotees gather and perform special worship of Lord Ganesha in major temples such as Ashoka Vinayak, Chandra Vinayak, Suryavinayak, Kamal Vinayak, Kamaladi Ganesha, and other Ganesha temples across the country.
Although Ganesh Chaturthi is not celebrated for ten long days like in India, the day holds particular importance in Nepal. According to Prof. Dr. Ram Chandra Gautam, former chairman of the Nepal Panchang Committee and theologian, the day falls the next day of Haritalika Teej. Hence, after wishing for a happy married life and peace on the day of Bhadra Shukla Tritiya, devotees worship Ganesha on the day of Chaturthi for a peaceful life.
The day is also known as the Chatha festival or Mangal Chaturthi in the Newar community. It is customary to distribute ‘Chhusyamusya’ to the children on this auspicious day. In 2065 B.S., the Ganesha chariot yatra started in the capital and other major cities.
People who are into yoga and meditation, celebrate this day by fasting and chanting various Ganesha mantras.
Ganesha Chaturthi Significance
Ganesha is associated with the red color; he controls the center of Muladhara. Ganesha’s noose symbolizes affection and desire, over which Ganesha has power. It is also believed that Ganesha especially loves red flowers.
On this special day, the aspect of the creative intelligence that helps remove obstacles and barriers is at its most vibrant. The celebration also reflects cycles of birth rumbling around life and death.
The importance of celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi is as follows:
- Clarity of thinking
- Removing barriers, especially in business and education
- Making the right decisions
- The development of intuition helps avoid obstacles, achieve great success, and be at the right time in the right place.
Puja Bidhi: The Rituals and Idols
The rituals during Ganesh Chaturthi, known as Ganesha Puja, involve installing clay idols of Ganesha in homes or public pandals. The idol is then invoked with holy mantras and offerings like sweets, flowers, and incense.
On Anant Chaturdashi, the idols are carried in grand processions to a water body for immersion, a ritual known as Ganesh Visarjan. This ritual symbolizes Ganesha’s journey back to his heavenly abode after visiting his devotees on earth. The immersion of clay idols into bodies of water signifies the cycle of creation and dissolution in Hindu philosophy.
Mantras and Holy Chants
Ganesh Mantra, the sacred chants dedicated to Lord Ganesha, are central to the celebrations. ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya‘ is one of the most popular chants, encapsulating the love and reverence that devotees have for the deity. Another essential aspect of the festival is the Ganesh Yantra, a mystical diagram used in rituals and believed to invoke the blessings of Ganesha.
Modern Celebrations and Famous Idols
In Mumbai, the idol of Lalbaugcha Raja is arguably the most famous Ganesh idol during the festival. It’s known for its unique design and the number of devotees it attracts. In recent years, celebrity sightings, including the likes of Anushka Sharma, have added to its popularity.
Even beyond India’s borders, Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated. For instance, in Paris, a grand procession is organized annually, with a beautifully crafted idol of Paris Ganesha being the centerpiece of the celebration.
Lord Ganesha: a symbol of Hope and Prosperity
According to the Hindu tradition, Ganesha represents the mantra “Om.” Nothing can be done successfully without its utterance. This explains the practice of invoking Ganesha before starting any ceremony or undertaking any project.
- The elephant is the largest and strongest, at the same time noble and, surprisingly, herbivore. The elephant does not kill to get his own food. Ganesh, despite being huge, is calm and represents peace most of the time.
- An elephant is usually very devoted to the one who takes care of it. In the same way, Ganesha extends his support to all who are aware of and maintain this natural aspect in themselves.
- The big head is a symbol of wisdom. Big ears, like a sieve, separate the good, the true from the bad, the false. Although they hear everything, they only react to the truth. Ganesha is very attentive to all requests made from a pure heart.
- His two feet denote the power of knowledge and the power of action. A large belly represents natural abundance. It is also believed that Ganesha devours all the sorrows of the universe and protects this world.