Why Is Ganesh Chaturthi Not Just A Public Holiday ?
Ganesh Chaturthi, as a festival, has been celebrated and performed as a ritual in my ancestral hometown since the time I can remember. During those initial days when I had just started to understand that there is some function going on in the family and all the family members / relatives have come together, my curiosity with regards to this important festival was infact limited to having Sweets — “Modak” and “Karanjee” — as known in local parlance in Marathi. And frankly, I didn’t even bother to know the WHAT, WHY, WHEN about this festival for a long long time. It’s only recently since the last 2–3 years when my better-half started observing the ritual in her office and eventually decided to bring Lord Ganesha home in 2017 — that I felt like wanting to know more.
Basic Info on Ganesh Chaturthi
In 2017, Ganesh Chaturthi festival was observed on 25th August, for a period of 10 days. According to Hindu calendar, Ganesh Chaturthi — which is the birth anniversary of Lord Ganesha — usually falls in ‘Bhadrapada’, around August / September. This celebration period of 10 days may vary from state to state in India. Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are two states where 10 days celebration is mostly observed, while other states may celebrate for just one day. Lord Ganesha is well known by different names like:
- Ganpati (Lord of all Gods)
- Ekadant (meaning one tooth)
- Vignaharta (meaning remover of obstacles)
- Devavrata (meaning the one who accepts all penances)
- Eshanputra (son of Lord Shiva)
- Heramb (meaning calm, respected & erudite person)
- Kirti (meaning fame)
The Story of Lord Ganesha
In the above picture, there is a young Lord Ganesha with his parents Lord Shiva & Goddess Parvati and his elder brother Lord Kartikeya. The legend has it that Parvati formed Ganesha out of clay and put life into him. Parvati then went for a bath, asking Ganesha to stand guard at the door and not allow anybody enter their home. Lord Shiva came after some time but was refused entry into his home by Ganesha, thereby infuriating him. Enraged, he cut the head off Ganesha. Parvati was distraught after seeing this and asked Shiva to revive Ganesha. Shiva advised some of his disciples to fetch the head of whoever they see first. As a result, Lord Ganesha has a elephant head.
The origin of this festival can be traced back to the times of the Great Warrior Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. It again got revived, so to speak, after the British banned all Hindu gatherings around 1900 and Lokmanya Tilakfound a way to circumvent that ban through such cultural promotion. Ever since, it has been an integral part of Maharashtrian culture. Gradually, it became a part of the ‘Indian’ system. I am sure today Indians across the globe feel attached to it and it is hence that this festival is celebrated with much pomp and fanfare.
Schedule & Rituals Followed on Ganesh Chaturthi
Although Ganesh Chaturthi officially begins on the birth anniversary of Lord Ganesha, the actual preparations begin about 30–40 days prior to the said event. These preparations are making of different types and sizes of idols. The sculptors try to make excellent idols, in order to sell more, and include artistic works. Local Mandals or groups collect funds either from local residents or through organizations and arrangements are done accordingly. The idols are brought to the pandals either one day prior to or on the Ganesh Chaturthi day itself. Pandals have elaborate decoration and illumination.
Typically, (nuclear) families bringing home Lord Ganesha clean and decorate a small portion of their house with flowers, lighting etc. The idol is then installed and Pooja is done by reciting mantras. Aarti is performed twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.
Housing societies or various groups make a schedule of all activities like Aarti timings, games, some competitions like dance / fancy dress / talent show etc — as a part of entertainment to general public. “Lalbaugcha Raja” is the most popular in Mumbai and everybody wishes to personally visit and pray before the deity.
Avoid Moon Sighting on the day of Ganesh Chaturthi as it is believed to be inauspicious and invite negative energies
Visarjan (Immersion) Procession
Amid chants of “Ganpati Bappa Morya, Pudhchya Varshi Laukar Ya”, people bid adieu to Lord Ganesha.
Anant Chaturdashi — the 11th day from Ganesh Chaturthi — is the biggest day of Visarjan. There is no hard & fast rule as to when the immersion has to take place. It is done after 1 day / 3 days / 5 days / 7 days or on 11th day. Small Ganesha idols of families or housing societies can be immersed in the waters fairly quickly considering small size of the idol and the small group of devotees around it. However, the big idols take long time. Meticulous planning is required in terms of the procession route, the traffic, safety etc and excellent team work & co-ordination is necessary between the pandal organizers, its volunteers and the Police.
Mumbai is one place where you need to experience this first hand.
Apart from the spiritual and cosmic reason to believe in the Power of Lord Ganesha, there will have to be some more reasons as to why the general public celebrates the occasion with so much fanfare and pomp. Rather than arguing from & against and instead of being unnecessarily rationalistic, I would like to just go with the flow and enjoy all that is cheered about, during these 11 days. I believe you all should too !
What do you feel about my article ? Do let me know through your comments.