Let’s Celebrate Ganpati Bappa’s Janamdin!

Ganesh Chaturthi, also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, is the traditional Vedic festival commemorating the birth of Lord Ganesh (Vinayaka). Chaturthi or Chaturthi Tithi refers to the fourth lunar phase. As per Vedic culture, the Chaturthi Tithi in the Shukla Paksha (waxing phase / bright fortnight) belongs to Lord Ganesh, the god of wisdom and success. Generally, all Shukla Paksha Chaturthi is dedicated to Lord Ganesh, out of which the one falling on the month of Bhadrapada is considered most important. Devotees celebrate this day as the birthday of Lord Ganesh.

Ganesh Chaturthi – The Birthday of Lord Ganesh

The Shukla Paksha Chaturthi (4th lunar phase in the waxing phase) of all lunar months are dedicated to Lord Ganesh and are observed as his monthly birthdays. These days are usually considered as Vinayaka Chaturthi. The Shukla Paksha Chaturthi in the Bhadrapada month (6th lunar month) of the Vedic lunisolar calendar is the most important one, which is celebrated as Lord Ganesh’s annual birthday. This day is the actual Ganesh Chaturthi and is celebrated with great pomp and devotion. In the Gregorian calendar, this day falls in late August or early September, depending on the cycle of the moon. 

The Ganesh Chaturthi 2021 is on September 10, Friday

Lord Ganesh is one of the most celebrated gods in Vedic culture. He is considered the god of wisdom, good fortune, and success, and so, his birthday is an occasion of immense importance to the devotees. Devotees all over the world observe Shukla Paksha Chaturthi in the Bhadrapada month as Ganesh Chaturthi – the birthday of Lord Ganesh. 

In some regions in India (as in the states of Maharashtra and Goa), Ganesh Chaturthi is a social festival celebrated with great passion and fervor. There, the celebration would last for 10 to 11 days, starting from Shukla Paksha Chaturthi (4th lunar day) and ending on Shukla Paksha Chaturdashi (14th lunar day).

The general features or observances of this festival include

-Observing Vrat (fast) on the first day, Chaturthi.

-Installing grand clay idols of Lord Ganesh at homes and pandals or tents erected in public places.

-Daily pujas, offerings (prasad), and chanting of Ganapati Upanishad.

-Ganesh Visarjan – the ceremonial procession carrying the Ganesh idols and immersing them on the river or sea. This ritual takes place on the last day (Shukla Paksha Chaturdashi, also known as Anant Chaturdashi), which makes the biggest spectacle of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival.

In 2021, the Ganesh Visarjan day is on September 19, Sunday

Ganesh Chaturthi 2021 Important Timings

This year, Ganesha Chaturthi falls on Friday, September 10, 2021. 

Chaturthi Tithi beginning: 12:18 am on Sep 10, 2021

Chaturthi Tithi ending : 09:57pm on Sep 10, 2021

As per Vedic Astrology, Madhyahna Kala is the most appropriate time for Ganesha Puja.

Madhyahna Ganesha Puja Muhurat: 11:03 am to 01:33 pm (Duration: 02 hours 30 min)

The legend behind Ganesh’s birth

The most common legend associated with Lord Ganesh’s birth is that Goddess Parvati created him out of the smear off her body while having a bath. He was then told by the goddess to guard her door until she finished the bath. Little Ganesh, obeying his mother’s order, guarded the door sternly and didn’t even let Lord Shiva enter. This resulted in a fight between the two, both being unaware of whom they were fighting with. Finally, an infuriated Shiva used his Trisul to behead Ganesh. When Goddess Parvati got enraged with this event, Lord Shiva promised to resurrect Ganesh. He ordered his Ganas and devas to find a head, who only managed to bring an elephant head. Finally, Lord Shiva restored Ganesh’s life with the elephant head. Thus, Lord Ganesh became the elephant-headed god, also known by the name Gajanan (‘Gaja means elephant and ‘anan’ means face/head).

According to another story, Shiva and Parvati created Lord Ganesh on the request of devas to be the Vighnakartaa (creator of obstacles) to the Rakshasas (demonic beings) and the Vighnaharta (averter of obstacles) to the Devas or the good beings.

Importance of Lord Ganesh 

Ganesh or Ganesha is one of the most worshipped deities in Vedic culture. He is considered the son of Shiva and Parvati and the leader of Ganas (Shiva’s tribe). For devotees all over the world, he is the god of wisdom, intelligence and good fortune. He is commonly worshipped as the elephant-headed god. The other common names of Lord Ganesh include Vinayaka, Ganapati (means ‘the leader of the ganas’ or ‘the guardian of multitudes’), Gajanan (the one with the face of an elephant), Vighneswara (the remover of obstacles) and Buddhi Pradaayaka (the one who bestows intelligence).

Lord Ganesh as Vignahrata – the one who removes obstacles 

As Lord Ganesh is considered as the remover of obstacles and the god of good fortune, it is common for the devotees to worship or pay reverence to him while beginning anything auspicious. People invoke his blessings at the beginning of auspicious functions like marriage and Griha Pravesh (housewarming) and while initiating new ventures like some business, project or long travel.  It is believed that his blessings will remove the obstacles and make the efforts easier and successful. His blessings are also invoked at the beginning of all temple ceremonies and other religious rituals.

Mention in Ancient texts

The term Ganapati has its mention in Rig Veda. Whether ‘the Ganapati in Vedas’ and the later era Ganesha are the same or not is actually uncertain. Various post-Vedic texts such as Grhya Sutras, Vajasaneyi Samhita and Yajnavalkya Smriti also mention this name. Puranas such as Skanda PuranaNarada Purana and Brahma Vaivarta Purana praise him as the god of success and remover of obstacles. In Mahabharata, Lord Ganapati is mentioned as Ganesvara and Vinayaka. 

 

Ganesh Chaturthi Rituals & Celebrations

Though the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is observed all over India and by devotees around the world, it is celebrated with great energy and pomp in the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is also widely celebrated in Goa, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Depending on the regional traditions, Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations may vary from 1 day to 11 days. It is a 10 or 11-day long festival in Maharashtra and Goa, starting from Shukla Paksha Chaturthi (4th lunar day) of the Bhadrapada month and ending on the Chaturdashi day (14th lunar day). On the day of Shukla Paksha Chaturthi, idols of Ganesha are installed on raised platforms in homes and in elaborately decorated pandals (outdoor tents). Erecting pandals at public places and installing elaborately crafted Ganesha idols is a common practice in Maharashtra and Goa. Idols of varying styles and sizes are used, which usually take the artisans months to complete. Installing the idols, chanting hymns of Hindu texts such as Ganapati Upanishad, observing vrata, preparing prasad etc., are the common observations of this festival. 

Installing Ganesha idols is a major part of the festival, which includes some important religious rituals. Once the idols are erected, the Prana Prathishta ritual is carried out for invoking life or the holy presence of the lord into the idols. It may include some worship and recitation of mantras. This will be followed by Shodashopachara or the 16 ways of paying tribute.

Prayers are offered to these installed deities on each day of the festival. The deities are worshipped by chanting Vedic hymns and Ganesh Upanishad and anointing them with red sandalwood paste and flowers. Devotees also offer coconut, jaggery, rice, coins, Modaks (Lord Ganesh’s favorite food), and other sweets. Visiting the various public displays of Lord Ganesh and worshipping him are popular activities of this festival. The temples of Lord Ganesh conduct special prayers and programs on these days.

Ganesh Visarjan

The ten or eleven-day festival of Ganesh Chaturthi culminates with the ritual of Ganesh Visarjan observed on Anant Chaturdashi (the last day). On this day, all the installed Ganesha idols are paraded through the streets with the accompaniment of music and dance and are immersed in a water-body like a river or a sea. This is the ritual of Ganesh Visarjan, symbolising the lord’s homeward journey to Mount Kailash – the abode of Shiva and Parvati. 

Some people may observe this ritual before the Anant Chaturdashi day. However, it will be observed on odd days only, like one and a half, three, five, and seven days after Ganesh Chaturthi.

Mumbai is the best place to view and experience the gala of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. Over 10,000 statues of Lord Ganesh will be erected at various locations in this city. In the Siddhivinayak temple situated in the central south Mumbai neighbourhood of Prabhadevi, the celebrations take place in a special way. An incalculable number of devotees visit this temple for prayers during the occasion. The Ganesh Visarjan ritual on the last day includes a grand, colourful procession and is a must-watch. In Mumbai alone, more than 150,000 statues are immersed each year!

The Significance of Ganesh Visarjan Ritual

The immersion of idols or deities worshipped as a god into water bodies is an implication of a valuable thought or principle. It recognizes the constant state of change that the universe is in. All forms eventually become formless, and only the energy remains. The immersion of Ganesha idols into the sea and its subsequent destruction is a reminder of this fact. It teaches us that everything is temporary, and sometimes we have to let go of the things we love.

The Forbidden Moon

On the day of Ganesh Chaturthi, it’s forbidden to look at the moon. It is believed that one who sees the moon on Ganesh Chaturthi will be cursed with Mithya Dosham or Mithya Kalank, which means false accusation of theft (‘Mithya’ means false). The legend says that it’s because the moon laughed at Lord Ganesha when he fell from his vehicle, the rat. According to the beliefs, even Lord Krishna was once accused of stealing a valuable jewel as he had seen the moon on Bhadrapad Shukla Paksha Chaturthi (Ganesh Chaturthi).

The history behind Ganesh Chaturthi

The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi has been publicly celebrated in Pune since the 17th century, during the era of Shivaji (1630 – 1680). It would have been celebrated even before that, but the actual origin is unknown. King Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha Empire, made it a major public event after the Mughal-Maratha wars. 

Later in the 19th century, the British Raj banned Hindu gatherings through its anti-public assembly legislation in 1892. As a result, the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations dwindled into a private family affair. There exists a debate over who revived the Ganesh Utsav celebrations. Lokmanya Tilak, Bhausaheb Rangari, and Sardar Krishnaji Khasgiwale were known to have put efforts to bring back this festival. Whoever it was, the purpose of reviving the celebrations was to bring together the people of all classes. It brought them together and united them against British rule. As Lord Ganesh was worshipped by all classes and castes, Ganesh Utsav celebrations helped in bridging the gap between the upper class and lower class in the caste hierarchy. It developed a strong feeling for heritage and brought emotional unity across them to oppose the British government.

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