Ganesh Chaturthi

Ganesh Chaturthi, one of the most-loved festivals in India, is replete with divinity, celebrations, and flamboyance. It is a festival that cuts across all religions, castes, and creeds. Think Ganesh Chaturthi, and the beautiful idol of Lord Ganesh comes to mind – the excitement, the crowds, the aroma of His favourite modaks and chants just fill the air! Lord Ganesh is seen as a God for all. He is regarded as the God of new beginnings, fresh starts, remover of obstacles, and a patron of learning. This 10-day long festival not only celebrates the birthday of Lord Ganesh, but is also a social and community event that brings people together and promotes harmony. The popular belief is that Lord Ganesh visits earth during these 10 days to bless His devotees. Hence, for those who have an existing Ganesh statue in their house, this is the time to serve Him and take special care of Him, like a much-loved guest. Festivals in India are incomplete without a host of delicacies and Ganesh Chaturthi is no different. Throughout this 10-day extravaganza, a lot of effort is put in to please Lord Ganesh. His favourite food is prepared and offered to Him as bhog.
History: Becoming a Popular Mass Festival
Although Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated traditionally in most states of India, the fervour with which it is celebrated in the state of Maharashtra is unparalleled. Interestingly, it was not a significant part of Maharashtra’s tradition until its advent here during the Maratha reign. In fact, Ganesh Chaturthi was initially just a homely affair. It was Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856–1920), a noted leader of the Indian Independence Movement, who was instrumental in converting Lord Ganesh into a powerful cultural and religious symbol of unity for the Maharashtrian people in an attempt to resist the British rule. Though the British regime clamped down very heavily on political opposition and rebellion, they did not interfere with religious observances. Hence, the Ganesh festival provided a space to show national unity. In 1893, Tilak reinvented the Ganesh Chaturthi, converting it from an annual family celebration to a full-fledged public event.
Rituals and Customs
The preparation for the festival begins months earlier with artisans crafting clay images of Ganesh in different sizes. These idols are installed in specially decorated pandals (temporary structure used in religious events) or at homes. The 10-day long celebration follows the Hindu lunar calendar, with the biggest spectacle taking place on the last day called Anant Chaturdashi. On the first day, amid chants of Ganpati Bappa Morya, thousands of devotees take the idol of Lord Ganesh home, and after its installation, perform a ceremony to invoke His holy presence into the statue. This ritual is called the Prana Pratishtha, during which a number of mantras are recited, a special worship ceremony is performed, offerings of sweets, flowers, rice, coconut, jaggery, and coins are made, and the statue is anointed with red chandan (sandalwood) powder. For the next 10 days the idol is worshipped every day and an arti is sung in the evening. It is believed that Lord Ganesh was born at midday, and consequently it is considered to be the most auspicious time of the day for performing the rituals.
Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival that is celebrated with utmost pride and enthusiasm in the public arena. Apart from prayers and special events being conducted in temples that are devoted to Lord Ganesh, elaborately crafted statues of the Lord are installed in specially constructed and beautifully decorated pandals. In fact, amongst the local communities a competition to put up the most impressive Ganesh statue on display goes on for 10 days. Devotees make it a point to visit the various public displays during the festival. In Maharashtra, the Lalbaugcha Raja Sarvajanik Ganeshostsav Mandal, founded in 1934, is of of the most famous and the most visited Ganesh pandals.

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