Ganesh Chaturthi is finally here, the time of the year when Hindu devotees all over the India celebrate the birth of Lord Ganesha, the God of beginnings. According to the Hindu calender, this festival takes place on the Shukla Chaturthi in the month of Bhadra, which falls somewhere between the months of August and September every year. It is a ten day long festival and this year the celebration shall begin on September 2. In Hinduism, Lord Ganesha is addressed as Gajanana, Ganesh, Gajadant among others and the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrates Lord Ganesha as the God of wisdom and intelligence, God of New Beginnings and the Remover of Obstacles.
According to the Hindu scriptures, Goddess Parvati made Ganesha out of sandalwood paste and put him on guard while she was taking a bath. When Lord Shiva came back, Ganesha, being the obedient son, would not allow him to pass through. Unknown to the truth, Lord Shiva got infuriated and severed the child’s head. Hearing the news of her son’s demise, Goddess Parvati was heartbroken, upon which Shiva promised that he would bring Ganesha back to life. Lord Shiva instructed his followers to go and bring a child’s head. However, after a lot of searching, they could only find a baby elephant’s head. And that is how Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God came into being after he was re-born with the head of an elephant.
Weeks before Ganesh Chaturthi, the excitement fills the minds of the devotees. The festival starts with the installation of clay idols of Ganesha privately in homes, or publicly on huge, decorated pandals with priests chanting Vedic hymns and Hindu texts. It is known as the Pranapratistha, which is followed by a 16-step ritual called Shodashopachara Puja. Things which were liked by the Lord, including modak, shrikhand, payasam, coconut rice and motichoor laddoo are placed as offering in front of the idol of Lord Ganesha. The temples witness a huge influx of devotees who come to pay their respects to Lord Ganesha, take part in the puja and sing bhajans. The festival ends on the tenth day after a ritual called Uttarpuja, after which the idol is carried in a public procession with music and group chanting to immerse it in a nearby body of water such as a river or sea, which is known as Ganpati Visarjan. Every year, in Mumbai alone, around 150,000 statues are immersed in the sea.
Ganesh Chaturthi is observed throughout India, especially in the states such as Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh. Besides India, the Hindu population in other countries like Nepal, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, some parts of Caribbean, Fiji, Mauritius, South Africa, United States, and in Europe also observes Ganesh Chaturthi with the same level of enthusiasm and devotion.