Friday, September 2, 2016

Welcome Lord Ganesha to your home! - Happy Ganesh Chaturthi!

The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is also known as Ganesa Chaturthi and Vinayaka Chaturthi, considering Lord Ganesh is also known as Vinayaka. The festival also goes by the name of Vinayaka Cavithi. Celebrated mainly by Hindus, this festival extols Lord Ganesha, the deity with the head of an elephant. Incidentally, Lord Ganesha is supposed to be the deity of common people, making him perhaps the only one of his kind in Indian religious folklore. It is done in order to ensure that person doing the puja is able to complete every new activity without any hindrance whatsoever. This is also one reason why Lord Ganesha is also known as vignaharta or remover of troubles and obstacles. 

The word chaturthi in both Hindi and Bengali means the fourth day. As per Hindu calendar this festival is celebrated during the month of Bhaadrapada and is organized on the first fortnight’s fourth day. In Hindi this first fortnight is referred to as Shukla Chaturthi. As per Gregorian calendar it occurs either during August or September. The festival normally goes on for 10 days and ends on the penultimate day of the said fortnight. In Hindi this day is known as Anant Chaturdashi.

The festival is celebrated by people at home, at workplaces, and in public places as well. As part of celebrations, temporary shrines called pandals are built and clay images of the deity are worshipped during the entire duration. During this festival, you will come across plenty of people praying to the deity and taking part in festivities. This practice is known as group worship. When the festivals end these idols are immersed in huge waterbodies such as lakes, rivers, seas, etc. Over time, these clay idols melt away in the water – this is the possible logic behind their immersion.

Preparations for the festival normally start around a month earlier than the actual festival is supposed to happen. Local residents normally provide the funding to build the pandal and make other expenses related to the festival. The idols are normally bought from workshops and fairs. In Maharashtra the ritual of padya pooja starts the process of making the idols. The words padya pooja mean worshipping the feet in English and they imply the worshiping of the deity’s feet.

Vinayaka Chaturthi Celebration in Mumbai

The idols are brought to the pandals 15-20 days prior to the start of the actual festival. An easily-identifiable part of this festival is plenty of colourful decoration all around. Flowers and various other decorative materials are used for this purpose. The idols of this festival can be as small as three to four inches – to be used primarily in homes – to more than 70 feet – to be used in pandals. Priests decide the dates on the basis of chaturthi tithi. During the pujas hymns from Rigveda, Ganapati Atharvashirsa, Upanishads, and the Ganesha stotra from Narada Purana are used.

Where is it celebrated in India?

The festival is celebrated all around the country. However, the celebrations of Maharashtra, and Telangana to a certain extent, are well-known. Music is an integral part of Ganesh Chaturthi festivities in Maharashtra and traditional instruments such as tasha and dhol are key parts of the same. Apart from these, the festival is celebrated in the following areas:
  • Gujarat
  • Karnataka
  • Tamil Nadu
  • Andhra Pradesh
  • Kerala
  • Goa
  • Odisha
  • Madhya Pradesh
  • Chhattisgarh
  • Parts of western India
  • Parts of southern India  

Outside India, the festival is celebrated in the Terai region of Nepal, which is where Indian-origin Nepalese live. The festival is also observed in countries such as United States of America, Canada, and Mauritius where people of Indian Hindu diaspora live.  

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