Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated on the birthday of Lord Ganesh (Ganesha), the god of wisdom and prosperity on the fourth day of the moons bright fortnight, or period from new moon in the lunar month of Bhadrapada. The celebration of Ganesha Chaturthi continues for five, seven, or ten days. Some even stretch it to twenty one days, but ten the most popularly celebrated. In the tradition of the right hand path the first day is the most important. In the left hand path tradition the final day is most important.
Ganesha is the god of wisdom and prosperity and is invoked before the beginning of any auspicious work by the Hindus. It is believed that for the fulfillment of one’s desires, his blessing is absolutely necessary. According to the mythology, he is the son of Shiva and Parvati, brother of Kartikeya – the general of the gods, Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth and Saraswati-the goddess of learning. There are numerous stories in Hindu mythology, associated with the birth of this elephant-headed god, whose vehicle is the Mooshak or rat and who loves Modaks (droplet shaped Indian sweet).
Legend has it that Parvati created Ganesha out of the sandalwood dough that she used for her bath and breathed life into him. Letting him stand guard at the door she went to have her bath. When her husband, Shiva returned, the child who had never seen him stopped him. Shiva severed the head of the child and entered his house. Parvati, learning that her son was dead, was distraught and asked Shiva to revive him. Shiva cut off the head of an elephant and fixed it on the body of Ganesha.
Another tale tells of how one day the Gods decided to choose their leader and a race was to be held between the brothers- Kartikeya and Ganesha. Whoever took three rounds of the earth first would be made the Ganaadhipati or the leader. Kartikeya seated on a peacock as his vehicle, started off for the test. Ganesha was given a rat, which moved swiftly. Ganesha realised that the test was not easy, but he would not disobey his father. He reverently paid obeisance to his parents and went around them three times and thus completed the test before Kartikeya. He said, ” my parents pervade the whole universe and going around them, is more than going round the earth.” Everybody was pleasantly surprised to hear Ganesha’s logic and intelligence and hence he came to be known as the Ganaadhipati or leader, now referred to as Ganpati.
There is also a story behind the symbolic snake, rat and the singular tusk. During one of his birthdays, His mother, Parvati, cooked for him twenty-one types of delicious food and a lot of sweet porridge. Ganesha ate so much that even his big belly could not contain it. Mounting his little mouse, he embarked on his nightly rounds. His mouse suddenly stumbled upon seeing a huge snake. To adjust His belly, Ganesha put the snake on as a belt around his stomach. All of a sudden, he heard laughter emanating form the sky.
He looked up and saw the moon mocking him. Ganesha infuriated, broke off one of his tusks and hurled it at the moon. Parvati, seeing this, immediately cursed the moon that whoever looks at it on Ganesha Chaturthi will be accused of a wrong doing. The symbology behind the mouse and snake and Ganesha’s big belly and its relationship to the moon on his birthday is highly philosophic. The whole cosmos is known to be the belly of Ganesha. Parvati is the primordial energy. The seven realms above, seven realms below and seven oceans, are inside the cosmic belly of Ganesha, held together by the cosmic energy (kundalini ) symbolized as a huge snake which Ganesha ties around Him. The mouse is nothing but our ego. Ganesha, using the mouse as a vehicle, exemplifies the need to control our ego. One who has controlled the ego has Ganesha consciousness or God-consciousness.
Ganesh chaturthi was further promoted by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who brought to the cause of independence a fire of religious revivalism. Tilak (1856-1920) was a Maharashtrian Brahmin from Poona, who believed that self government could not be achieved by co-operating with the British. His slogan, Swaraj (Home Rule) is My Birthright, was echoed for miles on every side, and when he wrote articles in the Kesari, applauding the action of terrorist and the death of 2 British women in a bomb blast in Bengal, he was promptly brought to trial and sentenced to 6 years imprisonment, resulting in a 6 day long riot in Bombay. He was the first Indian freedom fighter to be given the kind of hero-worship, later acquired by Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru , Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Sardar Patel, by millions of people. After his release, he rose to become an all-India leader, working with the likes of Anne Besant for home rule, and was always respected as an intellectual.One of Tilak’s strongest movements to evoke nationalism through religious passions was the organisation of festivals like Ganesh chaturthi in Maharasthra, which not only inspired feelings of Hindu unity in Maharashtra, but gave freedom fighters an opportunity to meet when the British government illegalised any gatherings, writings and slogans that could incite violence.Thanks to Tilak, Ganesh Chaturthi became a major festival of Maharashtra, where thousands of gigantic idols of lord Ganesh are immersed by huge processions of worshipers shouting, Ganpati Bapa Morya, in the Arabian sea and rivers of the state. The festival has now gained popularity all over India, with celebrations in south India and Gujarat being no less spectacular than those of Maharashtra.
Ganesha Chaturthi Celebrations
The festival of Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated the states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and many other parts of India. Started by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja, the great Maratha ruler, to promote culture and nationalism, the festival was revived by Lokmanya Tilak (a freedom fighter) to spread the message of freedom struggle and to defy the British who had banned public assemblies. The festival gave the Indians a feeling of unity and revived their patriotic spirit and faith. This public festival formed the background for political leaders who delivered speeches to inspire people against the Western rule. The festival is so popular that the preparations begin months in advance.
Ganesha statues are installed in street corners and in homes, and elaborate arrangements are made for lighting, decoration, mirrors and the most common of flowers. Poojas (prayer services) are performed daily. The artists who make the idols of Ganesh compete with each other to make bigger and more magnificent and elegant idols. The relevantly larger ones are anything from 10 meters to 30 meters in height. These statues are then carried on decorated floats to be immersed in the sea after one, three, five, seven and ten days. Thousands of processions converge on the beaches to immerse the holy idols in the sea. This procession and immersion is accompanied by drum- beats, devotional songs and dancing.
It is still forbidden to look at the moon on that day as the moon had laughed at Ganesha when he fell from his vehicle, the rat. With the immersion of the idol amidst the chanting of “Ganesh Maharaj Ki Jai!” (Hail Lord Ganesh). The festival ends with pleads to Ganesha to return the next year with chants of “Ganpati bappa morya, pudcha varshi laukar ya” (Hail Lord Ganesh, return again soon next year.
Significance of Ganesha Chaturthi
The fervour with which devotees celebrate the birthday of their most loved deity – Lord Ganesha suggests the significance of Ganesha Chaturthi in their lives. According to the popular belief, Lord Ganesha descends on the earth on Ganesha Chaturthi to stay with his devotees for the course of ten days and clear all their obstacles. In return devotees pamper their beloved Lord Ganesha as an honoured guest and prepare his favourite sweets – modaks.
The festival of Ganesha Chaturthi is observed on the fourth day of Bhadrapad Shukla Paksha (ascending moon phase), of the Hindu lunar month of Magh. It is believed that Lord Ganesha was born on the fourth day of the bright fortnight of Magh, thereby establishing an association between Ganesha and chaturthi (four).
People also worship Ashtavinayak — the eight embodiments of Lord Ganesha on Ganesha Chaturthi. It is believed that Ashtavinayak eliminated the negative energy of evil powers from this world and this belief adds to the significance of Ganesha Chaturthi as it is believed that Ganesha always come to eradicate the evil from this planet.
Breaking coconuts is considered auspicious on Ganesha Chaturthi as when it is smashed on the floor it absorbs the negative energy from the atmosphere and thus ensuring your success henceforth in every venture you undertake.
Ganesha Chaturthi Myth
A popular myth associated with Ganesha Chaturthi is that one should refrain from looking at the moon on this day. The fable behind this myth goes like on one of his birthdays, Lord Ganesha after stuffing his belly with modaks, rode on his mouse that stumbled after seeing a snake. This resulted in Ganesha falling down, bursting out his stomach and spilling all the modaks. Ganesha stuffed all the modaks back into his stomach and tied his belly with the snake. Seeing this moon in the sky starting laughing heartily, which annoyed Ganesha and he cursed moon that anyone who will look at it on Ganesha Chaturthi will invite a bad luck. Since then people abstain from looking at the moon on the festival.
Ganesha Chaturthi Beliefs
In Hindu mythology Lord Ganesha is known as the lord of beginnings and as the lord of obstacle remover. Hence all auspicious occasions and religious functions begin by invoking his blessings. According to Hindu mythology anyone who reveres Lord Ganesha before starting any religious occasion or marriage ceremony receives his blessings which help in a successful culmination of the occasion. Lord Ganesha is also associated with commerce and traders till date seek his blessings before starting any new venture.