“Shree Vakratunda Mahakaya Suryakoti Samaprabha
Nirvighnam Kuru Me Deva Sarva-Kaaryeshu Sarvada“
O Lord Ganesha, with twisted trunk and huge effulgence, you are like thousands of Sun,
Please bless me so that I do not face any obstacles in my endeavors.
This is what thousands of devotees pray for to the “Elephant God”, the God of knowledge and wisdom, Lord Ganesha.
Ganesh Chaturthi celebrates the birthday of the Lord. It falls in the month of Bhadra, as per the Hindu calendar, and celebrated all through the nation, especially the western states, like Maharashtra. It is a 10-day celebration, that is held with much fervor and gaiety.
Lord Ganesha, is the youngest son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, There are popular tales about his birth and how he got an elephant head, but all stories concludes with the fact that he is as much revered and he is loved among the other deities of the Hindu religion.
Ganesh puja is a must before every other puja and auspicious celebration. He is considered to have much power to remove all obstacles smoothly and provide wisdom in taking good decisions that are fruitful.
Although Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated all over India, it is one of the major festivals of Maharashtra and the other states that formerly belonged to the Maratha Empire. Preparations for the festival starts months before the fourth day of the “Shukla paksha” which marks the day and ends on Anant Chaturdashi the fourteenth day of the waxing moon period.
Huge idols made of clay are set up at the marquees and the Ganesh or Vinayak Temples are decorated with flowers and leaves. Homes are cleaned and decorated to celebrate this auspicious occasion. Modak- or a sweet made of rice flour are made in hundreds of kilos at all sweet shops and homes as it is considered to be the favorite food of the Lord. Coconut and jaggery is also offered in prayer. Men and women, in traditional ethnic wear are seen flocking the temples. While the ladies wear colorful Kanjivaram sarees worn in the typical Marathi fashion, the men wear kurta and patiala, a loose trouser tied at the waist.
The rituals that are included within the worship are:
Praanpratishtha- Infusing life in the idols
Shodaspochara-16 ways of offering prayer and tribute
Uttarpuja-Shifting of the idol
Visarjan- Immersion of the idol
The Vinayak Murtis or idol are anointed with red or rakta sandal paste and perfumes. Durba or the trefoil bladed grass and red flowers are offered in prayer and hymns from the Rig Veda, Ganesh Stotra fills the air.
After 10 days of continuous celebration, the day after the Anant Chaturdashi, idols are lifted and taken to the rivers/ ocean for immersion. That is a celebration in itself. In Maharshtra the beaches get crowded with men and women, young and old, all dressed traditionally, cheering in unison. They gather there with coconut, camphor and incense sticks. The ladies dressed in silk sarees and salwar suits and the men folk in their ethnic best, in the most vibrant colors, chant “”Ganapathi Bappa Morya, Purchya Varshi Laukariya” (O father Ganesha, come again early next year). They clap with much enthusiasm, as one by one the idols are taken into the water and slowly immersed.