Ganesh Chaturthi

Ganesh Chaturthi

Infobox Holiday
holiday_name = Ganesha Chaturthi
type = Birthday of Lord Ganesha

caption =
official_name =
nickname =
observedby = Hindus
begins = shukla chaturthi
ends = Anant Chaturdashi
date = August/September
date2006 =
date2007 =
celebrations = 10 days
observances =
relatedto =

Ganesha Chaturthi (IAST: unicode|Gaṇeśa Caturthī, devanagari: गणेश चतुर्थी) or Ganesha Festival is a day on which Lord Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati, is believed to bestow his presence on earth for all his devotees. It is also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chavithi in Sanskrit, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu, Chavath ( चवथ ) in Konkani and as Chathaa (चथा) in Nepali Bhasa.It is celebrated as it is the birthday of Lord Ganesha. The festival is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Bhaadrapada, starting on the shukla chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon period). Typically, the day usually falls between 20 August and 15 September. The festival lasts for 10 days, ending on Anant Chaturdashi . This festival is observed in the lunar month of "bhadrapada shukla paksha chathurthi madhyahana vyapini purvaviddha". if Chaturthi prevails on both days, the first day should be observed. Even if chaturthi prevails for complete duration of "madhyahana" on the second day, but if it prevails on previous day's madhyahana period even for one "ghatika" (24 minutes) the previous day should be observed. (Ref. Dharmasindhu and Indian Calendric System, by Commodore S.K. Chatterjee (Retd). "Madhyahana" is the 3rd / 5th part of the day (Sunrise-sunset).

Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati, is widely worshipped as the "supreme god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune".

While celebrated all over India, it is most elaborate in Maharashtra, Goa (Biggest festival for Konkani people all over the world) Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, and other areas which were former states of the Maratha Empire. Outside India, it is celebrated by Newars in Nepal and Tamil Hindus in Sri Lanka.


The origin of the festival lies in the Holy Hindu scriptures which tell the story of Lord Ganesha. Lord Ganesha (or Ganapati) (the names mean "Lord [isha] or [pati] of Shiva's hosts [gana] ") was created by Goddess Parvati, consort of Lord Shiva.

According to the legend, Lord Shiva, the Hindu God of resolution, was away at a war. His wife Parvati, wanted to bathe and having no-one to guard the door to her house, conceived of the idea of creating a son who could guard her. Parvati created Ganesha out of the sandalwood paste that she used for her bath and breathed life into the figure. She then set him to stand guard at her door and instructed him not to let anyone enter.

In the meantime, Lord Shiva returned from the battle but as Ganesha did not know him, stopped Shiva from entering Parvati's chamber. Shiva, enraged by Ganesh’s impudence, drew his trident and cut off Ganesha's head. Parvati emerged to find Ganesha decapitated and flew into a rage. She took on the form of the Goddess Kali and threatened destruction to the three worlds of Heaven, Earth and the subterranean earth.

Parvati was still in a dangerous mood. Seeing her in this mood, the other Gods were afraid and Shiva, in an attempt to pacify Parvati, sent out his ganas, or hordes, to find a child whose mother is facing another direction in neglegence, cut off his head and bring it quickly. The first living thing they came across was an elephant. That elephant was facing north(the auspicious direction associated with wisdom). So they brought the head of this elephant and Shiva placed it on the trunk of Parvati's son and breathed life into him. Parvati was overjoyed and embraced her son, the elephant-headed boy whom Shiva named Ganesha, the lord of his ganas. Parvati was still upset so Lord Shiva announced that everyone who worships Ganesha before any other form of God is favored. So Ganesh is worshipped first in all Hindu occasions and festivals.


Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak] In 1893, Lokmanya Tilak, an Indian nationalist, social reformer and freedom fighter reshaped the annual Ganesh festival from private family celebrations into a grand public event. [cite book |last=Metcalf |first=Thomas R.|authorlink= |coauthors=Metcalf, Barbara Daly|title=A Concise History of India |year= |publisher= |location=| Metcalf and Metcalf, p. 150.] It is interesting to note that the festival was not celebrated in a public manner until this time but was a family affair among Hindus, who used to celebrate it in a traditional manner.

Lokamanya Tilak visualized the cultural importance of this deity and popularised Ganesha Chaturthi as a National Festival "to bridge the gap between the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins and find an appropriate context in which to build a new grassroots unity between them" in his nationalistic strivings against the British in Maharashtra. [cite book |last=Brown |first=Robert L. |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Ganesh: Studies of an Asian God |year=1991 |publisher=State University of New York |location=Albany |isbn=0-7914-0657-1 Brown (1991), p. 9.] [For Tilak's role in converting the private family festivals to a public event in support of Indian nationalism, see: Thapan, p. 225.]

Tilak chose Ganesha as a rallying point for Indian protest against British rule because of his wide appeal as "the god for Everyman". [Momin, A. R., "The Legacy Of G. S. Ghurye: A Centennial Festschrift", p. 95.] [For Ganesha's appeal as "the god for Everyman" as a motivation for Tilak, see: Brown (1991), p. 9.] It was an important festival during the Peshwa rule in Maharashtra, but acquired a more organized form all over India during the Swaraj movement (Freedom struggle).

Tilak was the first to install large public images of Ganesha in pavilions, and he established the practice of submerging all the public images on the tenth day [. For Tilak as the first to use large public images in "IAST|maṇḍapas" (pavilions or tents) see: Thapan, p. 225.cite book |last=Thapan |first=Anita Raina |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Understanding Gaņapati: Insights into the Dynamics of a Cult |year=1997 |publisher=Manohar Publishers |location=New Delhi |isbn=81-7304-195-4 ] . The festival facilitated community participation & involvement in the form of learned discourses, dance dramas, poetry recital, musical concerts, debates, etc. It served as a meeting ground for common people of all castes and communities, in a time when social & political gatherings were forbidden by the British Rule to exercise control over the population.

Puja in India

2-3 months prior to Ganesh Chaturthi, life-like clay models of Lord Ganesha are made for sale by specially skilled artisans. They are beautifully decorated & depict Lord Ganesh in various poses. The size of these statues may vary from 3/4th of an inch to over 25 feet.

Ganesh Chaturthi starts with the installation of these Ganesh statues in colorfully decorated homes and specially erected temporary structures "mantapas" ("pandals") in every locality. The pandals are erected by the people or a specific society or locality or group by collecting monetary contributions. The "mantapas" are decorated specially for the festival, either by using decorative items like flower garlands, lights, etc or are theme based decorations, which depict religious themes or current events. The statues are worshiped with families and friends.

The priest, usually clad in red silk dhoti and shawl, then invokes life into the statue amidst the chanting of mantras. This ritual is the Pranapratishhtha. After this the ritual called as Shhodashopachara (16 ways of paying tribute) follows. Coconut, jaggery, 21 modakas, 21 durva (trefoil) blades of grass and red flowers are offered. The statue is anointed with red unguent, typically made of Kumkum & Sandalwood paste . Throughout the ceremony, Vedic hymns from the Rig Veda, the Ganapati Atharva Shirsha Upanishad, and the Ganesha stotra from the Narada Purana are chanted.

For 10 days, from Bhadrapad Shudh Chaturthi to the Ananta Chaturdashi, Ganesha is worshipped.

On the 11th day, the statue is taken through the streets in a procession accompanied with dancing, singing, and fanfare to be immersed in a river or the sea symbolizing a ritual see-off of the Lord in his journey towards his abode in Kailash while taking away with him the misfortunes of his devotees. All join in this final procession shouting "Ganapathi Bappa Morya, Purchya Varshi Laukar ya" (O father Ganesha, come again early next year). After the final offering of coconuts, flowers and camphor is made, people carry the statue to the river to immerse it.The main sweet dish during the festival is the modak ( [modagam] or modakam in South India). A modak is a dumpling made from rice flour/wheat flour with a stuffing of fresh or dry-grated coconut, jaggery, dry fruits and some other condiments. It is either steam-cooked or fried. Another popular sweet dish is the karanji (karjikaiin Kannada) which is similar to the modak in composition and taste but has a semicircular shape.

Public celebrations of the festival are hugely popular, with local communities ("mandalas") vying with each other to put up the biggest statue & the best pandal. The festival is also the time for cultural activities like songs, dramas and orchestra and community activities like free medical checkup, blood donation camps, charity for the poor, etc.

Today, the Ganesh Festival is not only a popular festival - it has become a very critical and important economic activity for Maharashtra. Many artists, industries, and businesses survive on this mega-event. Ganesh Festival also provides a stage for budding artists to present their art to the public. The same holds true for Hyderabad too.

For the year 2007 in the Western Calendar, Ganesha Chaturthi commenced on Saturday, 15 September and its allied festival for Ganesha's mother, Gauri (a form of Parvathi) called Gauri Puja comes on September 13th (the day before) [] .

Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations outside India

Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in the UK by the migrant Hindu population as well as the large number of Indians residing there. The Hindu culture and Heritage Society, UK - a Southall based organisation celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi for the first time in London in 2005 at The Vishwa Hindu Temple. The Idol was immersed in the river Thames at Putney Pier.

The festival is similarly celebrated in many locations across the world. The Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA, an organisation of Hindus based in the US organises many such events to mark the various Hindu festivals.

Celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi in Mauritius dated back to 1896. The first Ganesh Chaturthi Puja was held at the epth of the 7,Cascades Valley in Henrietta by the Bhiwajee family who is still celebrating this pious festival for more than a century.

Over the years the festival gained such popularity on the island that Mauritian government has attributed a public holiday for that day.

Environmental impact

The most serious impact of the Ganesh festival on the natural environment is due to the immersion of idols made of Plaster of Paris into lakes, rivers and the sea. Traditionally, the Ganesh idol was sculpted out of earth taken from nearby one’s home. After worshipping the divinity in this earth idol, it was returned back to the Earth by immersing it in a nearby water body. This cycle represented the cycle of creation and dissolution in Nature.

However, as the production of Ganesh idols on a commercial basis grew, the earthen or natural clay (shaadu maati in Marathi) was replaced by Plaster of Paris. Plaster is a man made material, easier to mould, lighter and less expensive than clay. However, plaster takes much longer to dissolve and in the process of dissolution releases toxic elements into the water body. The chemical paints used to adorn these plaster idols, themselves contain heavy metals like mercury and cadmium.

On the final day of the Ganesh festival thousands of plaster idols are immersed into water bodies by devotees. These increase the level of acidity in the water and the content of heavy metals. [ cite paper |author= M. Vikram Reddy, A. Vijay Kumar |title= Effects of Ganesh-idol immersion on some water quality parameters of Hussainsagar Lake |date=December 2001 ] The day after the immersion, shoals of dead fish can be seen floating on the surface of the water body as a result of this sudden increase. [ [ Idols choke rivers of India] ]

Several non governmental and governmental bodies have been addressing this issue. Amongst the solutions proposed by various groups some are as follows:
* Return to the traditional use of natural clay idols and immerse the idol in a bucket of water at home. [ [ The Ecosensitive Ganesh Festival campaign] ]
* Use of a permanent idol made of stone and brass, used every year and a symbolic immersion only.
* Recycling of plaster idols to repaint them and use them again the following year.
* Ban on the immersion of plaster idols into lakes, rivers and the sea. [ [ Ganesh immersions ruled unlawful] ]
* Creative use of other biodegradable materials such as paper mache to create Ganesh idols.
* Encouraging people to immerse the idols in tanks of water rather than in natural water bodies. [ [ Green Ganesh] ]

To handle religious sentiments sensitively, some temples and spiritual groups have also taken up the cause. [ [ Ganesh immersion: temple’s campaign finds many takers] ]



External links

* [ Discovering Ganesh: a multi-media cultural project about Ganesh, The Ganesh Festival, and Ganesh in the Indian Diaspora]
* [ Ganesh Chaturthi] on

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