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 lunisolar calendar month Bhadrapada 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 10 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 shuklapaksha 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 colourful and musical procession and are immersed in some nearby waterbody like river or sea.
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 is also considered as the leader of Ganas – Lord Shiva’s tribe. The name Ganapati literally means ‘the guardian of multitudes’.
Ganapati 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.
Vinayaka Chaturthi 2018
Vinayaka Chaturthi or Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated on the Shuklapaksha (waxing phase) Chaturthi (4th lunar day) of the Bhadrapada month in Hindu lunisolar calendar. This year, it falls on 13th September, Thursday. The celebrations associated with Ganesh Chaturthi known as the Ganesh Utsav will last till the Anant Chaturdasi which is on September 23. So, this year’s Ganesh Utsav will be held from 13th to 23rd of September.
Some important timings regarding the Vinayaka Chaturthi 2018 are given below. As they vary with the geographical locations, we recommend you to check it with your local lunar calendar.
Muhurat for Madhyahna Ganesh Puja : 11.01 to 13.26, September 13
Total duration for Madhyahna Ganesh Puja : 2 hours 25 minutes
Chaturthi Tithi beginning : 12th September 17.37
Chaturthi Tithi ending : 13th September 16.21
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 a head, 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 Lord Ganesh means the one with the head of an elephant (‘Gaj’ means elephant and ‘anan’ means head).
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 Thiti 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 organisations.
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 colourful 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 Chatudashi day marks the end of Ganesh Utsav. The Anant Chatudashi 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 dishonoured 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 theater performances, orchestral events, free medical checkups, blood-donation campaigns, various charities etc. are organised 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 use to participate in this festival.
Some historical facts regarding Ganesh Chaturthi
It is unclear when the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi actually begun. 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 colonial British 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 recognised 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 Hindu upper class and 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 in various 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 iconizes the Hindu belief.