Ganapathy Bappa Morya - The Vociferous Cries Rising from the Streets of India
Festivals of a country are like the mirrors reflecting the history and culture of that land. Being a nation of multicultural communities, India is famous for its long drawing celebrations that mark a spree of joyful gathering of diverse communities round the festive calendar. One among them is the birthday of the elephant headed God, Lord Ganesha. Popularly known as Ganesh Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chathurthi, this 14 day festival is celebrated with great fervour and faith especially in the states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Marking the birth of the lord of auspicious beginning, Ganesh Chaturthi is traditionally observed in the month of Bhadrapad (August- September). The festival begins on Shukla Chaturthi day, which is the fourth day of the waxing moon phase, and ends on the 14th day of the waxing moon phase, which is called as Anant Chaturdashi.
Story behind the birth of Ganesha
The story says that Ganesha was created from a paste of sandalwood that Parvati used for bathing. She created a young boy who could guard the entrance while she bathed and when Lord Shiva tried to enter the premise, he was stopped by Ganesha. An enraged Shiva cut off Ganesha’s head but soon realized his mistake when he saw Parvati overwhelmed with grief.
Shiva asked his Ganas to bring him the head of the first animal they saw and they brought him an elephant’s head. Lord Shiva replaced Ganesha’s head with an elephant’s and restored his life. All of this happened on the fourth day of the Bhadrapada month. After the incident Lord Shiva declared Ganesha as superior to all Gods except Vishnu, Parvati, Laxmi and himself. Hence every year around this time Lord Ganesha is believed to descend on earth to bless his devotees.
What do we do on this day?
On the first day of the Ganesh Chaturthi, the devotees erect temporary structures called Mandapas or Pandals and the beautiful statues are installed on them and kept inside homes, localities and temples.
The work of the skilled artisans begins months before the actual festival. Various creative clay models of Lord Ganesha in different poses and sizes are made. The intricate details and designs of those craftsmen can be seen on these Idols once they are complete. The size of the statue varies from 3/4th inch to around 70 feet. The priest from temple performs poojas and rituals to invoke life into these idols. All the devotees worship these idols of Ganesha, performing aarti and offering prasad including fruits and sweets, especially the modak, which is considered to be the favourite of Lord Ganesh.
The major phase in the festival is the immersion ceremony which is another grand affair where all the devotees carry the idol in joyous processions chanting the phrase “Ganapathi Bappa Morya, Purchya Varshi Laukariya” accompanied by thumping music and the beats of the dhol and throwing gulal at one another. Maharashtra has a rich tradition of celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi in all its grandeur. The streets come alive with dance and music and colour powders everywhere. Several pandals in Mumbai compete against one another by setting up larger and more impressive idols. Prizes are given for the best and creative pandal.
Immersion is regarded as a ritual seeing-off of the Lord in his journey towards his abode in Kailash. It is said that along with him he takes away the all misfortunes of all the men and women on earth. After the final aarti the idol is immersed in the water body such as a lake or a sea.
A celebration that broke barriers
Maharastra has a rich tradition of celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi since the era of Chhatrapati Shivaji, who was a great Maratha ruler. The festival continued to be celebrated by the Peshwas too as Lord Ganesha was their local deity. But after the fall of the Peshwa rule, the festival was revived in later years by Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Tilak who was an eminent freedom fighter and a nationalist, noticed that the festival was more commonly celebrated amongst the upper strata of the society. He then decided to bridge these gaps created by castes and united all the citizens of the state for a well-organised community event that brought people together. This helped in making Ganesh Chaturthi a grand National festival.
Today Ganesh Chathurti is not only celebrated in India but is celebrated all across the globe. If you are looking forward to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi in all its grandeur and vigour head to any one of these states. Maharashtra, Pune, Bangalore, Hyberabad or Chennai.