Category Archives: Ganesh Chaturthi
History of Ganesh Chaturthi
Ganesh Chaturthi, one of the most sacred Hindu festivals, celebrates the birth of Lord Ganesha – the supreme God of wisdom and prosperity. This annual occassion is observed by the whole of Hindu community with great fervor and piety. Do you know how this festival came to be practiced? If not, scroll down and read our informative article on the history and origin of Ganesh Chaturthi. Know all about the earliest Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations and how it evolved over the time. If you like our article on the history of Ganesh Chaturthi, do not forget to click here and send this page to your friends and dear ones. Have a grand time this Ganesh Chaturthi. May the Lord bless you and all your loved ones.
Ganesh Chaturthi or “Vinayak Chaturthi” is one of the major traditional festivals celebrated by the Hindu community. It is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Bhadrapada, starting on the shukla chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon period). Typically the day falls sometime between August 20 and September 15. The festival lasts for 10 days, ending on Ananta Chaturdashi, and is traditionally celebrated as the birthday of Lord Ganesha.
According to Hindu mythology, Lord Ganesha is the son of Shiva (The God of Destruction in the Hindu Holy Trinity of Creator-Preserver-Destroyer) and Parvati (Shiva’s consort). The cutest and most lovable Indian God, Ganesha or Ganpati has the head of an elephant on which rests an elegant tiara, four podgy hands joined to a sizeable belly with each hand holding its own symbolic object – a trishul or a trident in one, an ankush or goad (made from his very own broken tooth) in another, a lotus in the third and a rosary (which is sometimes replaced by modaks, his favourite sweet) in the fourth. Revered as the deity of auspiciousness and wisdom, Lord Ganesha is also famous for being a trickster and for his profound sense of humour.
It is believed that Lord Ganesh was born on a fourth day (chaturthi) of the bright fortnight of the Hindu lunar month of Magh. Since then, an association between Ganesh and chaturthi has been established. Thus the festival dedicated to the worship of Lord Ganesha on this chaturthi day is named as Ganesh Chaturthi.
There is a curiously interesting tale about the birth of Ganesha. It is believed that once while Parvati was bathing, she created a human figure from some unguent and balm, gave him life and asked him to guard the door while she bathed. After a long period of meditation on Mountain Kailash (Lord Shiva’s abode), Shiva chose that very moment to drop by to see his better half, but was abruptly stopped by the man-god Parvati had posted at the door. Outraged by the cheek of this stranger, Shiva cut off his head only to discover moments later that he had killed Parvati’s son! For fear of enraging his wife, Shiva immediately dispatched his ganas (attendants) to get him the head of the first living creature they could find. Well, the first living creature happened to be an elephant. As instructed, the head was chopped off and brought back to Shiva, who placed it on Parvati’s son’s body, bringing him back to life. This elephant-headed god was welcomed into the first family of the Hindu heavens and named Ganesha or Ganapati, which literally means the chief of the ganas, or the attendants of Shiva. Ganesha is the foremost god of the Hindu pantheon. This brave guardian of the door to Parvati’s bath is beheld today as the most auspicious God of new beginnings. He is worshipped during every festival and before people undertake a journey or embark upon a new venture. You will also see him carefully guarding entrances to temples and homes, peeping out of calendars and happily gracing marriages and other such occasions.
It is not known when and how Ganesh Chaturthi was first celebrated. But according to the historian Shri Rajwade, the earliest Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations can be traced back to the times of the reigns of dynasties as Satavahana, Rashtrakuta and Chalukya. Historical records reveal that Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations were initiated in Maharashtra by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja, the great Maratha ruler, to promote culture and nationalism. And it had continued ever since. There are also references in history to similar celebrations during Peshwa times. It is believed that Lord Ganapati was the family deity of the Peshwas. After the end of Peshwa rule, Ganesh Chaturthi remained a family affair in Maharashtra from the period of 1818 to 1892.
1857 was a landmark year for India and moreso in the context of Indian freedom. It was the year of Sepoy Mutiny, an armed rebellion against the ruling British Empire by the Indian soldiers. This was the first war that India waged to gain back her independence from her white rulers. Though unsuccesful, this battle marked the beginning of the Indian struggle for independence. Many orators, leaders and freedom fighters all over India teamed to put up a united resistance to the British domination. One of these eminent leaders was Bal Gangadhar Tilak, an Indian nationalist, social reformer and freedom fighter. Greatly esteemed by the Indian people, especially of Maharashtra, Tilak was commonly referred to as “Lokmanya” or “he who is regarded by the people”. It was Tilak, who brought back the tradition of Ganesh Chaturthi and reshaped the annual Ganesh festival from private family celebrations into a grand public event.
Lokamanya saw how Lord Ganesha was worshipped by the upper stratum as well as the rank and file of India. The visionary that he was, Tilak realized the cultural importance of this deity and popularised Ganesha Chaturthi as a National Festival “to bridge the gap between the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins and find an appropriate context in which to build a new grassroots unity between them” in his nationalistic strivings against the British in Maharashtra. He knew that India couldn’t fight her rulers until she solved the differences within her own. Hence, to unite all social classes Tilak chose Ganesha as a rallying point for Indian protest against British rule because of his wide appeal as “the god for Everyman”.
It was around 1893, during the nascent stages of Indian nationalism, that Tilak began to organize the Ganesh Utsav as a social and religious function. He was the first to put in large public images of Ganesha in pavilions and establish the tradition of their immersion on the tenth day. The festival facilitated community participation and involvement in the form of learned discourses, dance dramas, poetry recital, musical concerts, debates, etc. It served as a meeting place for common people of all castes and communities, at a time when all social and political gatherings were forbidden by the British Empire for fear of conspiracies to be hatched against them. An important festival during the Peshwa era, Ganesha Chaturthi acquired at this time a more organized form all over India largely due to Lokmanya’s efforts.
Since then, Ganesh Chaturthi has been celebrated throughout Maharashtra as also in other states with great community enthusiasm and participation. With the independence of India in 1947, it was proclaimed to be a national festival.
Today, Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in the states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and many other parts of India. The festival is so popular that the preparations begin months in advance. Days before the actual worship, homes are cleaned and marquees erected at street corners to house the idols of the Lord. Elaborate arrangements are made for lighting, decoration, mirrors and flowers. The artisans who make the idols of Ganesh vie with each other to make bigger and better sculptures. The sizes of the relatively larger ones range anywhere from 10 meters to 30 meters in height. These are installed in marquees and in homes prior to the Puja (worship). During the festival days, the Lord is worshipped with great devotion and prayer services are performed daily. The duration of the Lord’s stay varies from place to place; once the worship is complete, the statues are 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 with dancing and the sound of exciting drum-beats, devotional songs and exploding firecrackers. As the idol is immersed amidst loud chants of “Ganesh Maharaj Ki Jai!” (Hail Lord Ganesh), the festival comes to an end with pleas to the Lord to return the next year with chants of “Ganpati bappa morya, pudcha varshi laukar ya” (Hail Lord Ganesh, return again soon next year). Tourists from all over the world come to witness this wonderful event in the sun kissed beaches of Goa and Mumbai.
While celebrated all over India, Ganesh Chaturthi festivities are most elaborate in states like Maharashtra, Goa (It is the biggest festival for Konkani people all over the world), Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, and other areas which were former states of the Maratha Empire. Outside India, it is celebrated in Nepal by the Newars.
In the 21st century, with the world turning fast into a global village, Ganesh Chaturthi is now celebrated all over the world, wherever there is a presence of a Hindu community.
The Story Behind Ganesh Chaturthi
Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the major festivals celebrated in India with great enthusiasm and devotion. The festival marks the birthday of Lord Ganesha; the Lord of knowledge, wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. The festival is also known as Vinayak Chaturthi or Vinayak Chavithi. This day, observed as one of the most auspicious in the Hindu religion, is widely celebrated especially in the state of Maharashtra.
The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi finds its origin in the Maratha reign, with Chatrapati Shivaji starting the festival. The belief lays in the story of the birth of Ganesha, the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Although there are various stories attached to his birth, the one most relevant is shared here. Goddess Parvati was the creator of Ganpati. She, in the absence of Lord Shiva, used her sandalwood paste to create Ganesha and put him to guard while she had gone for bathing. While she was gone, Lord Shiva got into a fight with Ganesha as he did not allow him to enter, as per his mother`s orders. Enraged, Lord Shiva cut off Ganesha`s head. When Parvati saw this sight, she took the form of Goddess Kali and threatened to destroy the world. This worried everyone and they requested Lord Shiva to find a solution and calm the rage of Goddess Kali. Shiva then ordered all his followers to immediately go and find a child whose mother has her back towards her child in negligence and bring his head. The first child seen by the followers was that of an elephant and they, as ordered, cut his head and brought to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva immediately placed the head on Ganesha`s body and brought it to life again. The rage of Maa Kali was calmed and Goddess Parvati was overwhelmed, once again. All the Lords blessed Ganesha and the day is today celebrated for the same reason.
Ganesh Chaturthi preparations commence from almost a month before the festival. The celebrations last for around ten days (from Bhadrapad Shudh Chaturthi to Ananta Chaturdashi). On the first day a clay idol of Lord Ganesha is installed in homes. Homes are decorated with flowers. Temples witness the visit of large number of devotees. Poojas are performed and bhajans are chanted. Often, families gather together to celebrate the festival. Localities organize and arrange for pandals and install large idols of Lord Ganesha to celebrate the festival with friends and family. On the final day of the celebrations, the idol of Lord Ganesha is taken on the streets. People exhibit their enthusiasm and joy in the form of dancing and singing on the streets along with the idol. The idol is finally immersed in the river or sea. The day witnesses a large number of devotees expressing their happiness and offering their prayers.
Ganesh Chaturthi Pujan
Ganesha pujan starts from installing a clay idol of Lord Ganesha in your home. Various dishes are cooked for offering (bhog). The idol is given a bath with pure water and then decorated with flowers. Jyoti is lite and then the aarti begins. Various bhajans, and mantras are chanted at this time. It is believed that chanting the mantras with complete devotion brings life to the idol. It is also believed that during this period, Ganesha visits the home of his devotees and bring prosperity and good fortune with him. For the same reason the day is observed as a very auspicious day.
Although there are a large number of sweets offered to Lord Ganesha during the pujan, but Modak is known to be the lord`s favourite sweet and is therefore one of the main dishes made on this day. Other dishes include Karanji, ladu, barfi and pede.
Once Lord Shiva left his usual dwelling on Mt.Kailas in the Himalayas, to meditate in one of the caves in the same mountain. Two friends of Parvati, his consort, suggested that she should have a ‘gana’ – attendant of their own, since they were not too happy with Shivaji’s ‘ganas’. Parvati agreed. Soon after, using her divine powers, she created a son, naming him Vinayak. She instructed him to guard their home.
When Shivaji returned Vinayak prevented him from entering. After some bickering, Shivaji beheaded Vinayak with his ‘trishul’ (trident). When Parvati heard of this she lamented intensely. Shivaji realised his error. To set things right he sent his men to the forest to fetch the head of the first living thing they met. They encountered a baby elephant and returned with its head. With his divine power, Shivaji placed the head over his son’s body. Instantly Vinayak sprung to life. Henceforth Vinayak also earned the name of Gajaanan. ‘Gaja’ means elephant. Shivaji blessed him with a boon that people would first worship and offer him dedication in all their auspicious activities. Those who didn’t would not attain success.
Bhadarva Sud 4th is the day Parvati was offering the final pujan to the dead Ganeshji, when he resurrected.
Ganapati Vivaha (Marriage)
When Shiva and Parvati decided to have their sons, Kartikeya and Ganesh married, they stipulated that he who circumambulated the earth first would be considered the best deity and would be married first. Kartikeya flew off on his vehicle – a peacock. Poor Ganapati’s vehicle was a mouse which was no match for a peacock. Being the choicest devotee of God, Parvatiji consoling him showed Ganeshji a simpler and quicker way. She advised him to cicumambulate the cow since she also symbolically represents another earth and he had reap the same benefit as going round the earth. Another reference cites him circumambulating his parents.Consoling him, Parvati showed a short cut. She divulged that it was ordained in the scriptures that he who offered pujan to his parents and then circumambulated them received the same merit as he who went around the earth. Ganapati hence married first showing that one who obeys the wish of the choicest devotee of God or his parents attains his desired wishes. Hence Ganeshji is invoked first in all auspicious events, rites and rituals such as marriage, opening ceremonies, ground-breaking ceremonies, yagnas and so on.
The Shiva Puran cites another story. Prajapati had two daughters, Siddhi (wealth) and Buddhi (intellect). He approached Parvati and Shivaji for the girls’ marriage to Kartikeya and Ganeshji. However both girls wished to marry only the latter. Thus they married him. Siddhi gave birth to a son named ‘Shubh’ (auspiciousness) and Buddhi to ‘Labh’ (merit).
Therefore when businessmen and merchants offer pujan to Ganeshji and Lakshmiji they write ‘Shubh’ and ‘Labh’ inside their account ledgers to invoke the two deities.
The first person to observe the ‘vrat’ (vow) of Ganesh Chaturthi was Chandra – the moon. After Ganeshji’s fame as leader (‘pati’) of Shiva’s ‘ganas’, hence Ganapati, he was travelling through the heavens. As he passed Chandra – who prided on his attractive features, he slighted Ganeshji’s peculiar form. In return, Ganeshji cursed him, “You shall bear the fruit of your karma. Whenever somebody does your darshan he will be cursed too.” Chandra begged for forgiveness. Ganeshji then advised him to observe the Ganesh Chaturthi vrat and was freed from the curse.
By being aware of the detrimental effects of false pride one should cultivate humility. The Skanda Purana mentions this sentiment of the festival.
The Vayu Puran advocates the observance of this festival by listening to the following relevant episode of Shri Krishna, to be relieved from false accusation:
When Shri Krishna was falsely accused of pilfering the Syamantak Mani (gem) he observed Ganesh Chaturthi and was freed from the false charge.
This festival also inspires devotees to inculcate two virtues; obeying the commands of God and His choicest devotee, and consolidating faith in them, just as Ganeshji had faith and trust in Parvati regarding circumambulating his parents.
Names of Ganeshji
To scribe the Mahabharat Katha Ganeshji removed one of his tusks to carve a quill from it. He then scribed the epic on palm leaves as the sage Ved Vyas recited it. The scribing took three years!
In south India there is a belief that when ploughing first began on earth, it was Lord Ganeshji who first ploughed using one of his tusks.
In the Uttar Ramayan, Brahmand Puran and Padma Puran there is a reference of a battle between Ganeshji and Parshuram. During the duel, the latter’s axe fractured one of Ganeshji’s tusks According to the Brahmand Puran, it was his left tusk.
There are other names related to his body and virtues.
A few commonly known are listed below:
Lambodar – from the long – ‘lambo’, tummy – ‘udar’.
Gajkarna – from the large elephant ‘Gaja’ ears – ‘karna.’
Kapil – from his ruddy complexion.
Vikat – heavy-bodied.
- Bhalchandra – having a Chandra (moon) on his forehead – ‘bhal.’
- Dwaimatur – one who has ‘dwi’ – two, ‘mata’ – mother; Parvati – who gave birth to him and Malini – a demoness who nurtured him.
- Vakratund – one who breaks the ego of he who behaves anti-socially (‘Vakra’).
- Mudgal – In south India, a special ‘Mudgal Puran’ extols Ganapati’s glory. It cites 32 names, while ‘Shardatilak’ lists 51 names.
- Vigneshwar – One who removes mayic obstacles – ‘vignas’
Since Ganeshji represents auspiciousness, his whole being has symbolic imports for devotees:
Large ears – signify listening to God’s katha with great zeal.
Small eyes – to do the Lord’s darshan minutely.
Large forehead – to develop great intellect to realise God.
Large stomach – depicts his great capacity to empathise with the woes of devotees.
Short legs – depicts patience.
Long trunk – symbolic of his deep scriptural wisdom.
Mouse as vehicle – a hyperactive creature, symbolic of our indriyas. Therefore Ganesh sitting on such a vehicle represents a deity of control over the indriyas.
Four arms – which hold: ‘ankush’ – symbol for control over the mind
‘ladu’ – for happiness
‘pash’ – axe to punish the indriyas and antahkaran
‘ashirvad mudra’ – blessings for the well being of humanity
Depending on the role of Ganapati, the number of arms varies, as do the type of objects.
Festival & Ritual
On this day every household in Maharashtra installs a small clay murti of Ganeshji in their homes. He is offered pujan and prasad until Sud 14 – Anant Chaturthi. This is celebrated with great festivity and fervor and the murti is taken to a river or lake and submerged. A well known chant is chanted during the procession for submersion :
Ganpati Bapa Moriya – Farewell O Lord Ganpati!
Gheema ladu choriya – Who avails ‘ladus’ soaked in ghee
Pudcha varsi laukariya – Return in haste next year.
Bapa Moriya re, Bapa Moriya re – O Lord farewell, O Lord farewell…
In Gujarat and in the Swaminarayan mandirs a clay or plaster of paris murti of Ganesh is installed on Ganesh Chaturthi and worshiped for ten days. The murti is submerged on ‘Parivartini’ i.e. ‘Jal Zilani’ Ekadashi. Devotees observe a waterless fast. The traditional prasad offered to Lord Ganeshji are chopped cucumbers and ‘ladus’ – sweet balls of wheat flour, ghee and sugar.
Five pujas and arti are offered, together with a boat ride after each arti before Ganeshji’s ‘Visarjan’ – submergence.
In this manner Ganesh is a deity of auspiciousness, wisdom and wealth. Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival inspiring devotees to inculcate redemptive virtues in their lives.