What is Vinayaka Chaturthi?

Vinayaka Chaturthi, also known as Ganesh Chaturthi is the Hindu festival commemorating the birth of Lord Ganesh. The day falls on Chaturthi or the 4th lunar day of the Hindu lunar calendar month which typically falls in August or September of the Gregorian calendar. The day is believed to be the birthday of Lord Ganesh, and the Hindus around the world celebrate this festival with great pomp and passion.

Depending on the regional traditions, the festival of Vinayaka Chaturthi varies from 1 day to 11 days. It is a ten or 11-day long festival in the Indian states viz. Maharashtra and Goa where elaborate pandals are erected at various places to install the Ganesha idols. The celebrations begin on the Shukla paksha Chaturthi (4th lunar day) of the Bhadrapada month and end on the Chaturdashi day (14th lunar day). Installing clay idols of Ganesha at home and in public places, chanting hymns of Hindu texts such as Ganapati Upanishad, observing Vrata, preparing Prasadam, etc. are some of the common observations of Vinayaka Chaturthi festival. On the last day of the festival known as Ananta Chaturdashi, all installed Ganesha idols are carried in a colorful and musical procession and are immersed in some nearby waterbody like river or sea.

Ganesh Chaturthi is also popularly known as Vinayagar Chaturthi and Vinayaka Chavithi in the northern and southern regions of India. The festival is celebrated with great pomp and joy and is one of the major festivals of India that commemorates communal bonding. 

The festivities during the festival go beyond the traditional chanting of mantras and slokas. Men, Women, and children of all ages participate in getting the idol of Lord Ganesha to the community, worship the deity for a period of three, five, seven, or eleven days and then begin the process of immersion.

Ganesh Visarjan is a grand process and in this process, there is a procession that is arranged where the deity is taken around the community and idols of Lord Ganesha from each household are added to the caravan that is headed to the Visarjan area. Every Hindu household believes in having their own idol at home to worship during the period of Ganesh Chaturthi, and the end of fourteen days they practice the ritual of immersing the idol themselves or sending it along with the magnificent community god whose immersion process will be overseen by a pandit or a pujari.

Ganesh Chathurthi 2020: All you need to know

Vinayaka Chaturthi or Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated on the Shukla paksha (waxing phase) Chaturthi (4th lunar day) of the Bhadrapada month in Hindu lunisolar calendar. This year, Ganesh Chaturthi 2020 according to the readings of the lunar calendar, the festival will be celebrated from the 22nd of August and will go on till the 01st of September. 

Ganesh Chaturthi 2020 – August 22, Saturday 

The 10 day period that follows has a significant religious impact and many offerings in the form of feeding the poor, undertaking rigorous fasts, and participating in a plethora of Vedic rituals are practiced to appease the Lord of wisdom.

This year the Chathurthi begins on the 22nd of August, this is when the ceremony to invoke the presence of the Lord in the statue is conducted. This ritual is called Prana Prathistha, and this ceremony is followed by a series of Poojas and rituals till the last day where the Lord is taken to the immersion site in a large pompous procession. The last day is called Ananth Chaturdashi.

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Lord Ganesha Significance

Ganesha is one of the most worshipped Hindu deities. He is considered as the eldest son of God Shiva and Goddess Parvathi. He is commonly represented and worshipped as the elephant-headed God and as the God of new beginnings and remover of obstacles. Ganapati, Vinayaka, Vighneswara, etc. are some of his other common names.

Lord Ganesha has his role in almost all temple ceremonies and other religious rituals. His blessings are invoked at the beginning of religious ceremonies since he is considered as the remover of obstacles and difficulties. It is common to the Hindus to worship or pay reverence to the Lord while beginning anything auspicious in order to prevent the obstacles and make things easier. People worship him before commencing a new business or starting a venture for it is believed that his blessings can remove the difficulties and make the efforts successful.

Lord Ganesha is also the God of wisdom and intelligence. He is known as the ‘Buddhi Pradaayaka’ which means one who grants intelligence. He has also considered as the leader of Ganas – Lord Shiva’s tribe. The name Ganapati literally means ‘the guardian of multitudes’.

Ganapati and other names for Ganesha in ancient texts

The term Ganapati has its mention in Rigveda. It is actually uncertain that the Vedic mention of Ganapati refers to later era Ganesha or not. The post-Vedic texts such as Grhya Sutras, Vajasaneyi Samhita and Yajnavalkya Smriti also mention this name. Mahabharata mentions Ganapati as Ganesvara and Vinayaka. Various Puranas such as Skanda Purana, Narada Purana, and Brahma Vaivarta Purana mention his name and praise him as the God of success & obstacle remover.

The legend behind Ganesha’s birth

The most common legend associated with the birth of Ganesh is that Goddess Parvati created him out of the smear off her body while having a bath. She set him to guard her door until she finishes her bath. Ganesha, obeying the mother’s order and not knowing about Shiva, even prevented him from entering. This led to a fight between them and, finally, an infuriated Shiva used his Trisul to behead Ganesha. When Parvati got enraged, Shiva promised her that Ganesha would live again. He sent the Ganas and Devas to search for ahead, who only managed to bring an elephant head. Finally, Shiva fixed that elephant head on the child and brought him back to life. The name Gajanan referring to Lord Ganesh means the one with the head of an elephant (‘Gaj’ means elephant and ‘anan’ means head).

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Another legend is that Shiva and Parvati created Ganesha on the request of Devas to be a Vighnakartaa (creator of obstacles) to the rakshasas (demonic beings) and a Vighnaharta (averter of obstacles) to the Devas or the good ones.

Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrations & Rituals

Ganesh Chaturthi is observed throughout India. The celebrations are high in certain states in India viz. Maharashtra, Goa, Telangana, Gujarat, and Chhattisgarh where it is celebrated as Ganesh Utsav starting from the Chaturthi and ending on the Chaturdashi. It is also observed by the Hindus in Nepal, Fiji, Mauritius, Trinidad, Suriname, US, and Europe. The date for beginning the festival is usually decided by the presence of Chaturthi Thiti, which will vary with geographical locations. If the Chaturthi Tithi begins at night on the previous day and continues to the next morning, then the next day is considered as Vinayaka Chaturthi day.

The observations include installing Ganesha idols at homes and public places, fasting, performing special pujas, chanting hymns, preparation of special dishes as Prasadam and immersion of idols in sea or river. The public preparations for the festivities may begin weeks or months in advance. Artisans create beautiful clay idols of Ganesha to be installed in homes and public places. The size of the idols varies from a few inches to meters. In Maharashtra, the making of murtis or idols begins with the worship of Lord Ganesha’s feet known as the ‘Padya Pooja’. Beautifully decorated mandapas or pandals will be erected at public places which will be funded either by the local residents and organizations.

The tale of the famous Ganesha Laddoo:

Every Ganesha idol is seen with a gigantic ladoo in his left hand. This Laddoo is considered auspicious and is considered to be a bearer of fertility according to the philosophies of Hindu tradition. On the 10th day of the Vinayaka Chathurthi,  the Laddoo is auctioned to the highest bidder, and the proceeds from that are used in community development. The bidder who gets the Laddoo often disperses it in their fields, or give it to couples who are trying to conceive a child or distribute it among the poor.

In some communities, the lore if someone manages to steal the Laddoo during this time they will inherit a good fortune. Hence the Ladoo is fiercely guarded by volunteers who build the idol. 

The four important rituals associated with the Ganesh Chaturthi or Ganesh Utsav

The four important rituals associated with the Ganesh Chaturthi or Ganesh Utsav are Pranapratishta, Shodashopachara, Uttarpuja, and Ganpati Visarjan. Pranapratishta is the process of invoking the deity into the idol. Shodashopachara refers to the 16 forms of paying tribute to Ganesha. Uttarpuja is the puja performed before shifting the idol and Ganpati Visarjan is the immersion of the idol in the waterbody.

The Prana Pratishtha ritual will be performed at an auspicious time around midday in the Ganesh Chaturthi day when Lord Ganesh is believed to have been born. It is performed to infuse the power of Lord Ganesha into the idol and will be followed by the 16-step Shodashopachara ritual. The Shodashopachara ritual includes offering coconut, jaggery, modaks (a preparation made by wrapping jaggery and coconut flakes in rice flour), durva grass, red hibiscus, etc. to the deity. In some areas, these ceremonies commence with the chanting of prayers and hymns. Ganesha stotra from the Narada Purana or hymns from Rigveda, Upanishads or Ganapati Atharvashirsa are chanted. Some devotees would stay on fast from the morning till completing the worship of Ganesha idol in the afternoon. Starting from the Ganesh Chaturthi, these installed idols will be worshipped on each day of the Ganesh Utsav. In Maharashtra and Goa, there is a custom of performing aartis with friends and family on every morning and evening.

The most noted celebration in Ganesh Utsav is the carrying of Ganesha idols in a colorful and musical procession and immersing them in the sea. In Mumbai alone, around 150,000 idols are immersed annually. This event performed on the Anant Chaturdashi day marks the end of Ganesh Utsav. The Anant Chaturdashi day is also devoted to Lord Anant, a form of Vishnu. During the procession of carrying the idols, people would sing and dance. They would shout ‘Ganapati Bappa Morya, Purcha Varshi Laukariya’ to ask the Lord to come early next year. With the immersion of clay idols in the sea, it is believed that Ganesha would return to Shiva & Parvati in Kailash.

There is a belief associated with this festival that advises not to look at the moon during certain times on Ganesh Chaturthi. It is believed that the one who sees the moon on these times will be cursed to face false accusations of theft and would get dishonored in the society unless he chants a certain mantra.

The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is also an occasion for various cultural and social programs. Activities such as theatre performances, orchestral events, free medical checkups, blood-donation campaigns, various charities, etc. are organized at these times. It is also a period of major commercial activities in cities viz. Mumbai, Surat, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Chennai. There are many businesses, industries, and artists who find this festival as an occasion to earn a major amount of their living. People from other religious communities also participate in this festival.

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Some historical facts regarding Ganesh Chaturthi

It is unclear when the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi actually began. The festival has been publicly celebrated in Pune since the 17th century, during the era of Shivaji (1630 – 1680). King Shivaji, who is also the founder of the Maratha Empire, made it a major public event after the Mughal-Maratha wars. Later in the 19th century, during the British Raj, the festival became a private family celebration as the British colonial government banned Hindu gatherings through its anti-public assembly legislation in 1892. The Indian freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak took the efforts to revive the Ganesh Utsav festival as he recognized this celebration as a way of creating Hindu unity. Lord Ganesh was worshipped by all classes, and this made Lokmanya choose this festival to bridge the gap between the Hindu upper class and the lower class and to develop a strong unity across them to oppose the British government.

Lord Ganesh in popular culture

Lord Ganesh is one of the few Hindu deities worshipped in all Indian states and by all communities following the Hindu belief. He is even worshipped outside India, in countries such as Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. Everywhere, the devotees adore the elephant-headed deity as the remover of obstacles and the God of wisdom. It is this belief that has created the trend of using the Lord’s images in various places and contexts. People love to use his images or icons on multiple things like invitation letters, clothes, key chains, inside vehicles, etc. Today, we can find Lord Ganesh’s various improvised forms in the works of art. We could say that Lord Ganesh ionizes the Hindu belief.

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