Vinayak Chaturthi or Ganesh Chaturthi is a Hindu festival of Lord Ganesha, in which the celebrations last for 10 days. This is celebrated in all parts of India, in different ways though. The festival starts from the 4th day of Hindu month of Bhadrapada, which falls in August – September months of the Gregorian calendar. Ganesh Chaturthi is also known as the birthday of Lord Ganesha. Lord Ganesh is the lord of the good beginning and obstacle remover (Vigneswara) for humans.
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In most parts of the central and north India, Ganesh Chathurthi is a public festival and it calls for big celebrations. But in South India, this is celebrated individually and is connected with the Teej festival. In places like Hyderabad and Mumbai, there will be grand feasts, athletic meets, martial arts display and movies that attract a huge crowd. It is more like a social event with huge public gathering to celebrate Ganesh Chathurthi. Chatrapathi Shivaji started this tradition in Maharastra after the Mughal- Maratha War. The British were also very much against this Hindu gathering and they produced a bill named anti-public legislation in 1892. Later, Lokmanya Thilak made it an official celebration during the 19th century.
Celebrating Ganesh Chathurthi
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The festival starts with the installation of clay models of Ganesha inside the home or outside, in the public, with decorations and pandals. People celebrate this festival by fasting, chanting Vedic hymns or Ganapathi Upanishad with prayers. After the daily offerings and prayers, they distribute ‘Modak’, known to be Lord Ganesha’s favourite Prasad, to the public. Modak is a sweet made of jaggery, rice or wheat flour and stuffed with grated coconut. The families who celebrate Ganesha worship and perform special pooja in the morning and evening. On the 10th day, this idol of Ganesha will be taken by a procession with music and chanting to the nearest water body and immersed there. This is the last ceremony of this festival. The common belief is that from there Ganesha goes back to Mount Kailash to see his parents Parvathi and Lord Shiva.
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Public preparation starts 15 to 20 days beforehand. In Maharashtra, the artisans start making the Ganesh Idols for worship by performing the Padya Pooja meaning worshiping the Lord’s feet. The fund for idol-making and celebrations of the function is usually collected from communities, business people, corporations etc. The idols will be placed at Pandals and temporary structure well before the festival. The Idol and surroundings are well-decorated with lights, flowers and colourful decorative items. You should experience it to understand the extravaganza of the Ganesha festival. Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival that really makes the entire public of the region so intimate that they keep waiting for it every year.
In Tamil Nadu, Ganesha Chaturthi is also known as Pillayar Chaturthi. The Ganesha Idol is usually made of clay and paper mash. Earlier, it was made using plaster of Paris. But since it has banned by the government, citing ecological adversities, more eco-friendly idols are being prepared these days. In Kerala, this festival is popularly known as Lambodhara Pirannal, which comes in the month of Chingam. Ganesh Chathurthi is a most celebrated Hindu festival in India and around the world where Hindu Population is there.
Festivities in other parts of the World
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Ganesh Chaturthi is also celebrated in Nepal, Fiji, USA, Trinidad, Mauritius, Europe and Suriname where Hindu population is in huge numbers. It is not clear when actually Ganesh Chaturthi started, but it became famous from the Shivaji era in Maharastra. In 1630-1680 it was celebrated popularly in Pune by the Maratha Empire. But as we discussed earlier, during the British rule the festivities were suppressed and later it gained popularity during the later part of the 19th century.
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