वक्रतुण्ड महाकाय सूर्यकोटि समप्रभ
निर्विघ्नं कुरु मे देव सर्वकार्येषु सर्वदा
||O Lord Ganesha, of curved trunk, large body, and with the brilliance of a million Suns, please make all my works free of obstacles, always.||
It is one of the biggest festival and birthday celebrated in India of the most endeared deity, Ganesha. As we celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, let us have a look at some facts about this festival:
There are two different versions about Ganesha’s birth. One has it that Goddess Parvati created Ganesha out of dirt off her body while having a bath and set him to guard her door while she finishes her bath. Shiva who has gone out, returned at that time, but as Ganesha didn’t know of him, stopped him from entering. An angry Shiva severed the head of Ganesha after a combat between the two. Parvati was enraged and Shiva promised Ganesha will live again. The devas who went in search of a head facing north of a dead person could manage only the head of an elephant. Shiva fixed the elephant’s head on the child and brought him back to life. The other legend has it that Ganesha was created by Shiva and Parvati on request of the Devas, to be a vighnakartaa (obstacle-creator) in the path of rakshasas (demonic beings), and a vighnahartaa (obstacle-averter) to help the Devas.
Ganesh Chaturthi is a ten-day Hindu festival celebrated to honour the elephant-headed God Ganesha’s birthday. He is the younger son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Ganesha is known by 108 different names and is the Lord of arts and sciences and the deva of wisdom. He is honoured at the start of rituals and ceremonies as he’s considered the God of beginnings. Lord Ganesha has around 108 names, including Vighna Harta (the remover of obstacles) and Buddhi Pradaayaka (the giver of wisdom and intellect). Apart from his birth, Ganesh Chaturthi is also the day when Lord Shiva declared Ganesha to be above all Hindu Gods. Though many believe Ganesha to be a bachelor, there are numerous instances where Ganesha is represented with two wives-Ridhi and Sidhi.
History of the celebration
The first celebration dates back to the time of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja, the great Maratha ruler. The festival continued to be celebrated by the Peshwas, as Lord Ganesha was their local deity, but after the fall of the Peshwa rule, the festival was revived by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the eminent freedom fighter, nationalist and social reformer. It was in 1892 that the first sarvajanik idol of Ganesh was installed by Bhausaheb Laxman Javale who is also known as Bhau Rangari. It was Javale who introduced the current Maharashtra public festival inspiring Lokmanya Tilak to popularize Ganesh Chaturthi as a national festival.
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in the grandest form in Maharashtra, Karnataka and parts of Andhra Pradesh. Outside India, it’s widely celebrated in Nepal’s Terai region, and by Hindus in UK, US and Mauritius etc. The festival lasts for 10 days, ending on Ananta Chaturdashi. The festival is so popular that the preparations begin months in advance. Days before the actual worship, homes are cleaned and marquees erected at street corners to house the idols of the Lord. Elaborate arrangements are made for lighting, decoration, mirrors and flowers. The artisans who make the idols of Ganesh vie with each other to make bigger and better sculptures. The sizes of the relatively larger ones range anywhere from 10 meters to 30 meters in height. Traditionally the idols were sculpted out of mud. They were eventually immersed in water as the festival drew to an end. But like this they were sculpted again every year to celebrate the festival. Though the ritual of immersion continues, sadly Plaster of Paris (PoP), that is used nowadays for idol-making contains mercury and cadmium, is hugely contributing to water pollution.The longest immersion procession is that of Mumbai’s Lalbaugcha Raja, which starts at around 10 am and ends the next morning, taking nearly 24 hours. The second longest procession is that of Mumbai’s Andhericha Raja, which starts at 5 pm and ends early morning next day.