Ganesha Chaturthi is the Hindu festival celebrated in honour of the god Ganesha, the elephant-headed. The festival, also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Bhaadrapada, starting on the shukla chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon period). The date usually falls between August and September. The festival usually lasts for 10 days, ending on Anant Chaturdashi (fourteenth day of the waxing moon period).
The modern festival involves installing clay images of Ganesha in public pandals (temporary shrines), which are worshipped for ten days. These are immersed at the end of the festival in a body of water such as a lake, along with the idol. Some Hindus also install the clay images of Ganesha in their homes. The festival was celebrated as a public event since the days of Maratha King Shivaji(1630–1680). However, the public festival as celebrated in Maharashtra today, was introduced by Bhausaheb Laxman Javale in 1892 by installing first Sarvajanik (Public) Ganesh idol- Shrimant Bhausaheb Rangari Ganpati, Bhudwar Peth, in Pune. The first meeting regarding starting the Sarvajanik Ganesh utsav took place under the leadership of Bhausaheb Laxman Javale at his residence (Bhudwar Peth) now known as Bhau Rangari Bhavan. In 1893 Lokmanya Tilak praised the concept of Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav in Kesari Newspaper. In 1894, he installed Ganesh idol in Kesari wada, Pune too and started preaching Ganesh Utsav.
While celebrated all over India, it is grandest and most elaborate of them especially in Maharastra, Karnataka and Telangana, and in other parts of Western India and Southern India. Outside India, it is celebrated widely in Terai region of Nepal and by the Hindu diaspora in the United States, Canada, Mauritius, and other places.
Traditional Hindu about Ganesha tell that Parvati, the consort of Shiva, created Ganesha out of sandalwood paste that she used for her bath and breathed life into the figure. She then set him the task of guarding her door while she bathed. Shiva, who had gone out, returned and as Ganesha didn't know him, didn't allow him to enter. After the combat between Ganesha and Shiva Ganas, finally angry Shiva severed the head of the child. Parvati seeing this became enraged and Shiva then promised that her son will be alive again. The devas searched for the head of dead person facing North, but they found only the head of an elephant. They brought the head of the elephant and Shiva fixed it on the child's body and brought him back to life. Lord Shiva also declared that from this day the boy would be called Ganesha (Gana Isha : Lord of Ganas).
According to the Linga Purana, Ganesha was created by Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati at the request of the Devas for being a Vighnakartaa (obstacle-creator) in the path of Rakshasas, and a Vighnahartaa (obstacle-averter) to help the Devas achieve fruits of their hard work.
Weeks or even months before Ganesha Chaturthi, artistic clay models of Lord Ganesha are made for sale by skilled artisans. They are beautifully decorated and depict Lord Ganesha in vivid poses. The size of these statues may vary from 3/4 of an inch to over 70 feet. Ganesha Chaturthi starts with the installation of these Ganesha statues in colorfully decorated homes and specially erected temporary structures mandapas (pandals) in every locality. The pandals are erected by collecting monetary contributions and are decorated specially for the festival, by using decorative items like flower garlands, lights, etc. and at times have theme based decorations.
The priest then with the chanting of mantras invokes the presence of Ganesha using the statue as a channel. This ritual is the Pranapratishhtha. After this the ritual called as Shhodashopachara (16 ways of paying tribute) follows. Coconut, jaggery,modaks, durva (trefoil) blades of grass and red flowers are offered. The statue is anointed with red unguent, typically made of kumkum and sandalwood paste. Throughout the ceremony, Vedic hymns from the Rig Veda, the Ganapati Atharvashirsa, Upanishad, and the Ganesha stotra from the Narada Purana are chanted.
Public celebrations of the festival are hugely popular especially in Maharashtra. These are organized by local youth groups (Tarun Mandal), neighborhood associations or group of traders. An example of the latter is the celebrations organized by the vegetable market traders in Pune. The Mandai Ganpati as it is called has been installed every year since the 1890s. The funds for the public festival are collected from members of the association arranging the celebration, local residents or local businesses. The Ganesh and accompanying statues are installed in temporary shelter called mandap or pandals. The local Festival Committees vie with each other to put up the biggest statue and the best pandal. The festival is also the time for cultural activities like singing and theater performances, orchestra and community activities like free medical checkup, blood donation camps, and charity for the poor.
Today, the Ganesh Festival is not only a popular festival, it has become a very critical and important economic activity for Mumbai, Pune,Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai. Many artists, industries, and businesses earn a significant amount of their living from this Festival. Ganesh Festival also provides a stage for budding artists to present their art to the public. In Maharashtra, not only Hindus but many other religions also participate in the celebration like Muslims, Jains, Christian and others.
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