Ganesh Chaturthi, the great Ganesha festival, also known as ‘Vinayak Chaturthi’ or ‘Vinayaka Chavithi’ is celebrated by Hindus around the world as the birthday of Lord Ganesha. It is observed during the Hindu month of Bhadra (mid-August to mid-September).
Ganesh Utsav is basically a ten day festival which starts on Ganesh Chaturthi and ends on Ananta Chaturdashi. Normally, Ganesha Chaturthi is the worship of god Ganesh on the fourth day of every month which is mentioned in the title of the festivals. During Ganesh Utsav, devotees of Lord Ganesha bring home Idols of Lord Ganesha and worship them for 1 and half, 3, 5, 7 or 9 days and then immerse the Lord Ganesha idol in water (sea, lake or a pond).
Ganpati puja Aarti should be ideally performed during the Madhyahana Kaal as it is believed that on Ganesh Chaturthi day, Lord Ganesh was born during Madhyahana Kaal.
Madhyahana Puja Time
As per Hindu time-keeping, the time duration between sunrise to sunset is divided into five equal parts. These five parts are known as Pratahkala, Sangava, Madhyahna, Aparahna and Sayankal. Ganapati Sthapana and Ganapati Puja on Ganesha Chaturthi are done during Madhyahna part of the day and as per Vedic astrology it is considered the most appropriate time for Ganesha Puja. During midday, Ganesha devotees perform detailed ritualistic Ganesha Puja which is known as Shodashopachara Ganapati Puja.
The Legend of the Festival
* Goddess Parvati, the consort of Shiva, had created her son Lord Ganesha out of sandalwood paste that she used for her bath and breathed life into the figure.
* Goddess Parvati, set him the task of guarding her door while she bathed. Shiva, who had gone out, returned and as Ganesha didn’t know him, didn’t allow him to enter. After the combat between Ganesha and Shiva Ganas, finally angry Shiva severed the head of the child.
* Parvati seeing this became enraged and Shiva then promised that her son will be alive again. The devas searched for the head of dead person facing North, but they found only the head of an elephant. They brought the head of the elephant and Shiva fixed it on the child’s body and brought him back to life. Lord Shiva also declared that from this day the boy would be called Ganesha (Gana Isha : Lord of Ganas).
* A story in Ganesh Purana tells the reason and practicing method of the festival. There was a Kshatriya who was disgusted due to his poverty. Hence forsaking everything he went to forest. There he meat sage Soubhari who advised him to perform Ganesh worship. Due to worship he obtained wealth. Due to his virtues in next birth he became sage Kardama. (Ganesh Purana Upa. 52 – 53).
* There is a custom of not looking at the moon on the day of Ganesha Chaturthi. Legend from Purana tells – once lord Ganesh started journey by riding on his vehicle mushaka (mouse). On the way, mouse slept and Ganesh fallen down. Seeing this, Chandra (moon) laughed. Ganesh became so angry on him and cursed him that ‘today onward your glory will decrease and nobody will look at you. Then moon asked for apology out of repentance. Then Ganesh mitigated his curse as ‘only on the day of Ganesha Chaturthi of Bhadrapada month, the one who will look at you will have an accusation of theft.
* To highlight the custom of not seeing moon on the festival day another story is stated by the Puranakaras as – Surya gifted syamantaka bead to Satrajita for his penance. That bead used to give 100 gram gold per day. He kept that bead in home sanctum and used to worship it daily. Krishna asked that bead for the welfare of subject to him but Satrajita refused to give. After some day Satrajita’s brother wore it in the neck went for the hunting. There the bead was taken way by tiger that killed him. Then the bead was taken way by the Jambavanta by killing tiger and given to his daughter. Here Satrajita blamed Krishna for the theft of syamantaka bead. Then Krishna found and fought with the Jambavanta and received that bead along with his daughter Jambavanti as wife. Even Satrajita also refused to take that bead back due to shame and gifted his daughter Satyabhama to Krishna. This way Krishna received the bead and married to Jambavanti and Satyabhama. At the end Krishna said, I saw a reflection of moon in the mud water on the day of Ganesha Chaturthi. This accusation of theft is the result of that.
History of this Festival
* Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated in Maharashtra very enthusiastically. Ganesh was the family deity of Peshavas who were the Bramhin rulers of Maharashtra. They started celebrating this festival publicly.
* The public festival as celebrated in Maharashtra today, was introduced by Bhausaheb Laxman Javale in 1892 by installing first Sarvajanik (Public) Ganesh idol. This followed a meeting at his residence, which was attended by, amongst others, Balasaheb Natu, and Krishnajipant Khasgiwale. Khasgiwale on his visit to the Maratha ruled princely state of Gwalior had seen the tradition of public celebration still maintained and brought it to the attention of his friends in Pune.
* Leading freedom fighter, Lokamanya Bala Gangadhara Tilaka used the idea of celebrated Ganesha Chaturthi publicly for the freedom struggle. As this was the sensitivity of society, he promoted the idea of celebrating festival publically in the each corner of Maharashtra.
* Tilak’s efforts transformed the annual domestic festival into a large, well-organized public event. Tilak recognized the wide appeal of the deity Ganesha as “the god for everybody”, and popularized Ganesh Chaturthi as a national festival in order “to bridge the gap between Brahmins and ‘non-Brahmins’ and find a context in which to build a new grassroots unity between them”, and generate nationalistic fervour among people in Maharashtra against the British colonial rule.
* Tilak was the first to install large public images of Ganesh in pavilions, and also established the practice of submerging the idols in rivers, sea, or other pools of water on the tenth day after Ganesh Chaturthi.
All the Ganesh temples in Maharashtra celebrate this festival and people visit those very devotionally such as Siddhivinayaka temple at Dadar, Mumbai; Ashtavinayaka temples in various places of Maharashtra; Shrimant Dagadushetha and Sarasabaga temples in Pune. In rally of farewell celebration of Ganesh idol is performed with traditional way. These are very unique in Pune, Kolhapur, Nasik and Nagpur.
There are many mantras, stotras and aartis specifically written in the Vedas and Puranas to please and worship the great Lord.
Chant this mantra to Lord Ganesha to seek His divine blessings –
वक्रतुंड महाकाय सूर्यकोटी समप्रभ ।
निर्विध्नं कुरु मे देव सर्वकार्येषु सर्वदा ।।
vakratunda mahakaya surya koti samaprabha |
nirvighnam kurume deva sarva karyeshu sarvada ||
O Lord Ganesha, we salute you the supreme. O mighty Lord who possesses a curved trunk and holy divine with mighty physique, whose brightness is like a zillion suns burning together, who bestows bliss to every body. Hail to the God of million Gods; help me fight all my problems with faith that you will be there to protect me like you have been guiding me always. My Lord, I have faith in you that you will protect from all the evil forever.
* Devotees take ritual bath, wear new clothes and get ready to perform the Vinayaka Chaturthi Pooja.
* The beautiful clay idol of Lord Ganesha is brought to the house and pandal with the face of the idol covered with a saffron cloth. After this, the idol is placed properly on the makhar in the houses and pandals. The idol is then beautified with fresh flower garlands
and sandalwood paste.
* Before invoking Lord Ganesha, a kalash i.e. the earthen or brass pot filled with holy water is established with the rice kept down the kalash. This is called as Purna Kumbha Kalasha Sthapana.
* Pranapratishtha is done to invoke life into the idol of Lord Ganesha with the chanting of the consecrated mantras. This ritual is followed by another known as Shhodashopachara
i.e. 16 ways of worship. For performing this ritual, there are various things which are required and it includes coconut, 21 modaks, betel leaf and betel nut, 21 blades of dhruva grass, incense sticks, sandalwood paste, sindur, camphor, cotton wicks.
* While performing the rituals, Vedic hymns from the Rig Veda and Ganapati Atharva Shirsha Upanishad are chanted and along with this, Ganesha Stotra from the Narada Purana is chanted. After chanting the mantras, Ashtottara Shatanamavali or 108 names of Lord Ganesha and the Ganesh Chaturthi Katha is recited.
* At the end of performing all the rituals, Ganesha aarti is recited and is performed by using the earthen lamp (diya) with the cotton wick dipped in pure ghee. This is performed twice a day: in the morning and in the evening. People offer prasad of modaks, laddus, pedas, charnamrit made up honey, curd, ghee, milk and fresh flowers to Lord Ganesha. After all this, people bow in front of the idol of Lord Ganesha and pray for the well being of everyone. They also apologise for any mistake done while performing the rituals.
Ganesha is the god of wisdom and prosperity and is invoked before the beginning of any auspicious work. It is believed that for the fulfillment of one’s desires, his blessing is absolutely necessary. In the word gana, ga stands for intellect (buddhi) and na means Vaijnaana (the higher knowledge or wisdom). Ganapathi is the Lord of the intellect and higher knowledge. Vinayaka is the master of every kind of knowledge. Learning is related to the intellect (buddhi).