Ganesh Chaturthi is a major Hindu festival celebrated for 10 days each year. It is also known as Vinayak Chaturthi or Ganeshotsav and is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Lord Ganesha. Son of God Shiva and Goddess Parvati, Lord Ganesha is considered the Remover of obstacles, that’s why he is also known as Vighnaharta. He is also the God of New beginnings as people worship Lord Ganesha before starting anything new in their life. Worshipping Lord Ganesh at the start of anything new is considered auspicious.
Ganesh Chaturthi is a 10-day celebration to mark the birthday of the God of Wisdom, good luck, and prosperity. Every year Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated on the fourth day, i.e, Chaturti in the month of Bhadrapada of the Shukla Paksha or the bright phase of the lunar month. Even though the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi has been celebrated publicly since the time of Shivaji, it lost its prominence under the British Raj. It was the Indian freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak who made it popular once again. Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated with much enthusiasm by all Hindus throughout the world but it forms a major festival in the Indian States of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, and Telangana.
Ganesh Chaturthi is a ten-day-long celebration. People celebrate it at home privately as well as in public as well. People, generally bring home small clay idols of Lord Ganesh and perform a Pranapratistha to invite Ganesh as a guest. It is done along with chants of holy mantras and pooja including bhajans during a certain auspicious period of the day. In many places, people make elaborate pandals where big and beautiful Lord Ganesh’s idol is brought to worship. But generally, at home, people start the preparation for Ganesh Chaturthi way before by cleaning the house.
When the Murti (idol) is set at home, people decorate it and its shrine with flowers, Rangoli, and colorful lights. The Murti is worshiped two times a day, i.e, in the morning and evening. The puja is done along with offerings of flowers, durva, i.e, strands of young grass, Karanji, and Modaks which are jaggery and coconut flakes wrapped in rice flour dumplings. The worship ends with the singing of an Aarti in honor of Lord Ganesh and other Gods.
Outside, in the public domain, people visit pandals to worship and look at the beautiful murti of Lord Ganesh. There are lots of colors, music, and energy. Loud chanting of holy mantras is performed by the priests for 10 days twice a day at auspicious times during the day. Offerings and Prasada including sweets such as modak from the daily prayers are distributed from the pandal to the community.
It is way more than just a festival. It brings society together and strengthens unity. There are four main rituals of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival that are performed during the 10 days. These four rituals are namely; Pranapratishhtha, Shhodashopachara, Uttarpuja, and Ganpati Visarjan. There are other aspects of Ganesh Chaturthi but these four are the most crucial and major events of the celebrations.
Pranapratishttha is done on the very first day of the festival when the idol(Murti) of Lord Ganesh is brought home or to a Pandal. It is a type of puja done with the chanting of holy mantras to invoke life into the idol and invite Ganesh as a guest. Then prayers are offered to Lord Ganesh after this in 16 different ways which are known as Shhodashopachara. Shodash means 16 in Sanskrit and Upachara means process. The Uttarpuja ritual is performed which is about bidding farewell to Lord Ganesha with love and deep respect. This is followed by Ganpati Visarjan, a ceremony wherein the statue is immersed in water. People generally chant “Ganapati Bappa Morya” while carrying the statue on their head as they immerse it in a large body of water such as a river, lake, ocean, etc.