It is the day Shiva declared his son Ganesha as superior to all the gods, barring Vishnu, Lakshmi, Shiva and Parvati. Ganesha is widely worshipped as the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune and traditionally invoked at the beginning of any new venture or at the start of travel. Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated by Hindus around the world as the birthday of lord Ganesh. It is celebrated in most elaborate way in Maharashtra. The celebrations last for 10 days here.
It is believed that Lord Ganesha bestows his presence on earth for all his devotees during the festival of Ganesha Chaturthi. The festival, also known as Ganeshutsav ("festival of Ganesha") 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 19 August and 20 September. The festival lasts for 10 days, ending on Anant Chaturdashi (fourteenth day of the waxing moon period). This Ganesha Chaturthi is considered as the birth day of lord Ganesha. It is believed that Lord Ganesha took birth in Scorpio ascendant in Abhijit Muhurata.
It is not known when and how Ganesh Chaturthi was first celebrated. Ganesh Chaturthi was being celebrated as a public event in Pune since the times of Shivaji (1630–1680), the founder of the Maratha Empire. The Peshwas, the de facto hereditary administrators of the Empire from 1749 till its end in 1818, encouraged the celebrations in their administrative seat Pune as Ganesha was their family deity (Kuladevata). With the fall of the Peshwas, Ganesh Chaturthi lost state patronage and became a private family celebration again till its revival by Indian freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak.
In 1893, Lokmanya Tilak transformed the annual domestic festival into a large, well-organized public event. Tilak recognized the wide appeal of the deity Ganesha as "the god for everybody", and popularized Ganesh Chaturthi as a national festival in order "to bridge the gap between Brahmins and 'non-Brahmins' and find a context in which to build a new grassroots unity between them", and generate nationalistic fervor among people in Maharashtra against the British colonial rule. Tilak was the first to install large public images of Ganesh in pavilions, and also established the practice of submerging in rivers, sea, or other pools of water all public images of the deity on the tenth day after Ganesh Chaturthi.
Under Tilak's encouragement, the festival facilitated community participation and involvement in the form of intellectual discourses, poetry recitals, performances of plays, musical concerts, and folk dances. It served as a meeting ground for people of all castes and communities in times when, in order to exercise control over the population, the British discouraged social and political gatherings.
Determination of Date
This festival of Ganpati Sthapana is generally celebrated in Maharashtra. It is celebrated on Bhadrapad Shukla Chaturthi falling during Madhyahana (mid-day). If this Chaturthi falls on two days but remains or does not remain available at Madhyahana (mid-day) then it is celebrated on the first day. If on the first day Chaturthi touches the one part of Madhyahana (mid-day) and on the second day covers the whole duration of Madhyahana (mid-day) then only it would be celebrated on the second day.
How to Celebrate
Decorate your doorway with flowers and mango leaves. Artificial hangings or torans can also be used for decoration.
Draw rangolis or geometric patterns in front of the doorway with raw rice flour. One can also use colored powder available in stores for this purpose. It is a symbol of auspiciousness. It helps attract positive vibrations into the house.Install a clay model of Ganesha and keep him in your prayer altar or in any sanctified place. (Ganesha idols are worshipped as it attracts the Ganesh principle, which is the highest on the earth plane, on this particular day )
Place him on a raised platform and dress him with a white silk dhoti and a silk shawl.Draw a rangoli in front of him too with rice flour.( when white ants feed upon the flour, immense merit would follow the devotee , it is believed)He can be decked up with ornaments and the sacrificial white thread should be tied on him.Offer him a garland of Durva grass and flowers like jasmine, lotus, milkweed etc. Red sandal paste should adorn his forehead. Lamps should be lit using ghee or clarified butter. Light incense that would fill the air with a good fragrance.
Recitation of mantras is called, “Prana Pratishta” in Sanskrit, meaning breathing of prana or life current into the image, making it fit for worship. Mantras give life to the form. The Rig- Veda mantra for Pran-prathista should be recited:Sacred mantras should be chanted like “Om Gam Ganapathaye” to invoke his blessings of success in all undertakings and destruction of all obstacles to well being.
Chanting of Ganesh Sahastranaam and following Mantra helps in overcoming all obstacles-
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People generally offer Laddu, Durva, blackberry and red flowers to Lord Ganesha.
Food offerings should be made to him like modaks (Laddus), coconut, cooked channa, jaggery, semolina laddus, besan laddus, kheer and different types of fruits. However, his favorite food is the modak. Food offered to Ganesha is called Prasad and it should be distributed after the pooja.
Once food offering is done, then arti along with ringing of bells should be done to him. It is showing of light to the deity and invoking his blessings.
Friends and family
Friends, neighbors and relatives can be called over to share the festive spirit and enjoy a meal with you. Food prepared at home should be shared with others. It brings in good merit.
Towards evening, after some prayers, he should be carried to a sea or some water body for immersion. It is a very important part of the pooja. He is thrown into the water with some coins and flowers, in the belief that he is carrying all our burdens with him and dissolving them, only to come back the next year. This ceremony is called visarjan in Hindi.