Ganesh Chaturthi Festival
“Ganapati Bappa Morya”, the loud and fervent cries rent the air. Drums beat a staccato beat in a hysteric symphony. People danced in frantic abandon enveloped in a cloud of red dust. A truck slowly moved on the road by the side of our car and on that truck stood a huge idol which assumed gigantic proportions in my eyes. I watched with incredulous eyes, wide eyed, gaping at the spectacle that unfolded before my eyes.
I must have been not more than 3 years and was comfortably ensconced in the luxury of my mother’s lap and had been awakened from the depths of sleep by the sound of the drums as we passed a procession that was slowly winding its way towards a beach in the Indian city of Mumbai. I watched with fascination at the huge idol which looked so majestic, I liked the fact that the idol had the head of an elephant and had a huge trunk, the eyes looked so comforting, warm, and loving.
The car slowly passed the procession, but the scene must have been so appealing to my tender mind, that I craned backward to get a further glimpse of the magnificent idol.
This was my first introduction to Ganesh, Ganesha, Ganapati, Vinayak, or Vinayaka which are only some of the names of one of the prominent and popular Gods of the Hindu pantheon.
My fascination with Ganesha, the elephant God continued and only increased with the passage of time. A couple of years later, I listened with rapt attention as my mother regaled me with stories about the exploits of Ganesha. ”
“The moon laughed loudly”, seeing the hilarious spectacle of a rotund Ganesha astride a tiny mouse making his way home in the heavens, said my mother. I looked out at the moon shining outside the window and returned my gaze to my mother who continued with the story.
“Ganesha was angry at this humiliation by the moon and cursed him saying that, “Oh! vain fool, you think you are very handsome and laugh at my appearance, do you not know that the entire world worships me”? I curse you that whoever sees you on my birthday will become victims of false accusations for crimes or sins that they have not committed”!
Hindu mythology is full of stories of Ganesha as a boy and later on as an adult which has enthralled, kids and adults alike for centuries. Lord Ganesha is worshiped by Hindus across India. Any festival, any ritual in Hinduism starts with a prayer to Lord Ganesha. Lord Ganesha is considered as a lucky talisman, a God who will ensure success for your every venture. Hence any auspicious or new venture invariably begins with a prayer to the elephant headed God. Ganesh temples see huge crowds around the time of School and College examinations as students pray to their favorite God for good luck.
But who is Ganesha? Why is he so important in the Hindu Pantheon?
Who is Ganesha and Why is Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrated – Ganesh Chaturthi story
According to Indian Mythology -Hindu mythology Ganesha is the son of Shiva and his consort Parvati. The birth of Ganesha is associated with a fascinating story. Once Parvati was alone and needed someone to stand guard as she bathed so she fashioned a statue of a young boy out of mud and clay and using her supernatural powers instilled life into it. Then she asked the boy to stand guard and not let anyone pass, while she bathed. The boy obediently took guard. As he stood diligently guarding the privacy of his creator, Shiva arrived on the scene, only to be accosted by the young boy and forbidden to move any further. An enraged Shiva engaged the boy in combat and in the process severed off his head. The creation of Parvati fell to the ground, lifeless and headless. On seeing this unfortunate turn of events, Parvati was inconsolable and she beseeched her husband Shiva to do something. Shiva asked his retinue to go in search of any creature that lay dead with its head pointing north. The retinue returned with an elephant’s head which was affixed to the boy’s body and life was breathed back into him.
Thus was born the Elephant God, Ganesha or Ganpati. Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated to mark the birth of Ganesha.
How is Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrated
Ganesh Chaturthi also known as Vinayaka Chauthi is celebrated with great pomp and devotion in millions of homes across India. Gaily decorated platforms hold the idols of Ganesha which are then worshiped with prayers and other Vedic rituals for a period of 10 days. Lokmanya Tilak, the Indian freedom fighter, and social reformer is credited with turning Ganesh Chaturthi into a community affair in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Today, during the festivities exquisitely decorated Ganesh Pandals adorn the cities of Mumbai, Pune, and others and are the center of cultural activities including Musical concerts and other programs. Each Ganesh Pandal has a unique theme and in cities like Mumbai people throng these places in multitudes just to have a glimpse of Lord Ganesh and Ganesh Pandal decoration.
Which Are The Best Places to Experience Ganesh Chaturthi
One city in India that stands out with the grandeur, vibrancy, and color of its Ganesh Chaturthi Festival celebrations is Mumbai, the financial capital of India and home to Bollywood, the thriving Film Industry of India. The streets of Mumbai virtually turn into a mammoth arena of pomp, gaiety, and devotion. Ganesh Pandals vie with each other to grab the visitors attention with unique themes and decorations. For the uninitiated, Ganesh Chaturthi Pandal in Mumbai are Marquees or Canopy tents that house the Ganesh Idols within a themed area. Maharashtra Tourism conducts special Tours to see the best of these Ganesh festivities. It would be a miss if we were not to mention a few of the famous Ganesh Pandals of Mumbai. Lalbaug cha Raja is the most popular and renowned Ganesh Pandal, the Ganesh idol here is known by this name which literally translated to, “King of Lalbaugh”.
The place draws millions from across the country every year to have a glimpse of the majestic Ganesh and pray at his feet with devotion.
Hyderabad a city situated in the south of India celebrates the Ganesh festival with great gusto. It has some of the most magnificent and largest of Ganesh Pandals in the country. Every year its Khairatabad Ganesh Pandal lays claim to housing the tallest Ganesh idol. At an incredible 57 feet and weighing over 40 tonnes the idol which takes about 3 to 4 months to build towers over the devotees. In 2017, the city of Vijayawada has forged ahead with a 72 feet tall idol of Ganesha.
The Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore now know more as a throbbing, modern metropolis transforms into a beehive of culture, religion, and spirituality during the Ganesh festival. Thousands of small and big Ganesh Pandals mushroom across the city as the entire city is enveloped in waves of celebration. One of the notable cultural festivals that is being organized for over 5 decades is the Bengaluru Ganesh Utsava which is a cultural extravaganza that stretches across eleven days and millions throng to experience the rich cultural heritage on show, which includes dance, music, theatre, and ballet performances from some of the best artists in India.
Special Food Prepared during Ganesh Chaturthi
Festivals and Food go hand in hand in India. Festivals are occasions to indulge in the magic of Indian food. The Ganesh festival is no exception and food that is thought to be the favorite of the elephant God are prepared across millions of kitchens in India and offered lovingly to the God and then distributed and partaken off as holy food sanctified by divine blessings.
This sweet dish is one which is supposed to be absolutely dear to Lord Ganesh. Modak is a dumpling made of rice flour and stuffed with jaggery and grated coconut.
Laddus with their orange color and round ball shapes are tempting sweets that are sure to win over the heart of anyone who has a sweet tooth. These are made from Gram or Chickpea flour, molded into shape after being cooked in marinated butter and blended with sugar, and cardamom. Laddus are very popular and distributed to devotees after being ritualistically offered to Lord Ganesha across home, Ganesh Pandals and temples across the country.
Gujia is another sweet dumpling made from deep frying refined flour stuffed with grated coconut, sugar or jaggery. Gujia is popular in the north of India. In the south a similar sweet is known as Kadubu in the state of Karnataka, Kudumulu in the state of Andhra Pradesh. This is another favourite of Lord Ganesha and is offered to him with lots of love and devotion during Ganesha Puja.
Ganesh Visarjan or Ganesh Immersion – Ganesh Visarjan Date
After 11 days filled with excitement, devotion, and celebration, on Anant Chaturdashi, it is time to bid farewell to Lord Ganesha. Though hearts are heavy and eyes are moist, the Lord is bid adieu with great pomp and in a spectacular display of fireworks, dance, and music. Thousands of Ganesha idols slowly parade across the roads of Mumbai and other Indian cities towards the nearest water body where the idols are immersed. In Mumbai, the Arabian Sea is the place where thousands of Ganapati idols of all shapes and colors are immersed. The Mumbai Ganesh Visarjan is a spectacle not to be missed. As the idols slowly submerge under the waves and are washed away, devotees return with a heavy heart realizing that a page has turned in their lives. But at the back of their mind is the joy of optimism as they look forward to the return of their favorite God the next year.
“Ganapati bappa morya pudhchya varshi lavkar ya” (Lord bless us and return next year) shout the devotees as they slowly make their way back to their homes across the cities and towns of India.
- Ganesh is the brother of Kartikeya also known as Skanda or Murugan or Subramanya and the son of Shiva and Parvati
- Over 200,000 idols of Ganesha are immersed in the seas of Mumbai every year
- To ensure protection of environment the Government designates areas for idol immersion and the civic authorities ensure that the water bodies are cleaned afterward
- Siddhi Vinayak temple in Mumbai is a famous Lord Ganesh temple where thousands throng for a glimpse of the deity and to seek blessings
- Hampi which is the Vijayanagar and a UNESCO World Heritage Site has a 15 feet Ganesha statue carved out of a single boulder
- In a Ganesha temple called Dodda Ganesha in Bangalore, the 18 feet tall and 16 feet wide Ganesha idol made of a single rock is adorned with 100 kgs. of butter on special occasions
- Millions of Ganesh idols / Ganpati idols are made and sold across India during Ganesh Chaturthi festival
Have you experienced the thrill and excitement of the Ganesha festival – Ganesh Chaturthi? Which is your favorite city to immerse yourself in the celebrations?
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