Wednesday, September 28, 2011


By Angela Nilsson - Days ago, during this month, the ten-days festival Ganesh Chaturthi, (also known as ‘Vinayak Chaturthi’ or ‘Vinayaka Chavithi’), was celebrated by Hindus around the world as the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati, who is believed to bestow his presence on earth for all his devotees in the duration of this festival.  Lord Ganesha is worshiped as the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. He is the Lord of success and destroyer of evils, vanity, selfishness, pride and obstacles and is also worshipped as the god of education and knowledge.  Ganesha is the personification of material universe in all its various magnificent manifestations.  The devotees of Ganesha are known as ‘Ganapatyas’.

Normally, the festival is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Bhaadrapada, starting on the Shukla Chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon period).  The date usually falls between 20 August and 15 September. The celebrations last for 10 days, ending on Anant Chaturdashi (fourteenth day of the waxing moon period).  While celebrated all over India, Ganesh Chaturthi is most elaborate in Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat, Orissa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.  Outside India, it is celebrated widely in Nepal and by Tamil Hindus in Sri Lanka.  In the evening as the sun sets in Hindu communities around the world, thousands of clay images of Ganesha are taken in procession to be immersed in the ocean in countries across the diaspora.

Ganesha Chaturthi, one of the most colourful national festivals of India celebrating the birth of this joyful deity, was observed this month.  After rituals, chanting and prayers, thousands of clay images of Ganesha are taken out in joyous processions in the streets before being immersed in the ocean in a rite called Visarjna.  “When the clay dissolves in the water, the energy of Ganesha is spread all over, floating across the oceans to bless the entire universe,” says Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America.

Ganesha Chaturthi is the most important of all Mumbai and Pune festivals and is celebrated with great aplomb amongst Marathi community worldwide. On the occasion of the Ganpati festival, a large number of deities are made of all possible sizes and people buy them to keep in their houses as a divine guest for one and a half, five, seven or ten days or twenty one days in exceptional cases after which the image is taken out ceremoniously and disposed of into the river, sea, or well for immersion (Visarjan).  The pooja can be a simple one performed by the head of the family and witnessed by family members, close friends, involving a priest who would come home and perform the pooja. The people gather around chanting Sanskrit shlokas when the deity is installed.  Modak is the most famous and most typical food preparation of Ganesha Chaturthi celebrations.

Stephen Knapp (Śrīpad Nandanandana dasa) :
“Hindu Festivals”  -

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