Ganesh or Vinayaka Chaturthi, an Hindu festival, is observed in the month of Bhaadrapada, starting on the shukla chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon period).throughout the country. He is the son of Shiva and Parvati, Shiva declared that Ganesha will be invoked and propitiated, at the beginning of any pooja or any venture, as his blessings are of utmost importance, for the completion of the pooja or success of any venture..
According to tradition, Lord Ganesha was created by goddess Parvati, from the dirt of her body. and breathed life into the figure. She then asked to guard the entrance of her door while she bathed. Lord Shiva returned and getting no entry, got enraged and severed the child’s head and entered his house. Realizing his mistake, Lord Shiva later fixed the head of an elephant in place of Ganesha’s head. Thus,Lord Ganesha came to be depicted as the elephant-headed God.
Months before the festival, artistic plaster of Paris (originally clay) models of Lord Ganesha are created for sale, by specially skilled artisans. They are decorated and depicted in beautiful poses.Ganesh Chaturthi begins with the installation of Ganesh statues in homes and mandapas (pandals) in every locality, with public fund. They are decorated with flower garlands, lights, etc. based on the religion themes or current events.
The priest, usually clad in red or white dhoti and uttariyam (Shawl), symbolically invokes life into the statue by chanting mantras. This ritual is the Pranapratishhtha. Then the ritual called Shhodashopachara (16 ways of paying tribute) follows. Coconut, jaggery, 21 modakas, 21 durva (trefoil) blades of grass and red flowers are offered. The statue is anointed with red unguent, made of kumkum and sandalwood paste. Vedic hymns from the Rig Veda, the Ganapati Atharva Shirsha Upanishad, and the Ganesha stotra from the Narada Purana are recited, throughout the celebration.
The whole community comes to worship Ganesha. These also serve as the venue for free medical checkup, blood donation camps, charity for the poor, dramatic performances, films, devotional songs, etc. during the ten days of the festival.
Ganesha is worshipped for 10 days from Bhadrapada Shudha Chaturthi to the Ananta Chaturdashi, On the 11th day, (sometimes even 3rd, 5th or 7th day, as per tradition, especially in homes), the statue is taken through the streets in a procession, accompanied with dancing, singing, and fanfare, with the slogan “Ganapati Bappa Morya, Pudhachya Varshi Laukar ya”, to be immersed in a river or the sea symbolizing a ritual see-off of the Lord, in his journey towards his abode in Kailash, while taking away with him the misfortunes of his devotees. This ritual is called Ganesha Visarjan and is conducted in Maharashtra. Kannada and A.P. (O lord Ganesha, come again early next year) in Maharastra and “Ganesh Maha Raj ki, Jai” (lord Ganesha, victory is yours) in Andhra Pradesh. After the final offering of coconuts, flowers and camphor is made,
the idols immersed in the river.
Modak is the main sweet dish made in Ganesh Chaturthi. It is a dumpling made from rice flour/wheat flour with a stuffing of fresh or dry-grated coconut, jaggery, dry fruits and condiments, either steam-cooked or fried.
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in UK, US, Malayasia, France by the migrant Hindu population. The Hindu culture and Heritage Society, UK , celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi for the first time in London in 2005 at The Vishwa Hindu Temple. The Idol was immersed in the river Thames at Putney Pier. A Gujarati group celebrated in the Southend-on-Sea, so also at River Mersey at Liverpool In US, The Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA, Telugu Association of North America, Bay Area Telugu Association and Balaji Temples across USA celebrate this festival.
In the Philadelphia Ganesh, PGF, the festival is conducted at Bharatiya Temple, Chalfont, Pennsylvania, with processions, devotional programs, cultural events, India filmi-orchestra,for 10 days, complimented by a weekend carnival. So also, in Canada, MBM in Toronto, MSBC in Vancouver and Mauritius. Lokmanya Tilak was responsible in making the festival sarvajanik.Lakes get contaminated with Plaster of Paris, due to immersion of Ganesha idols. To put an end to environment pollution, following suggestions are made :-
1.Traditional use of natural clay idols and immerse in a bucket of water at home.
2.Use of a permanent icon made of stone and brass, as a symbolic immersion only.
3.Recycling of plaster icons by repainting them and re-use them.
4.Ban on the immersion
5.Creative use of other biodegradable materials such as papier-mâché to create Ganesh icons.