Ganapati/Ganesha is a popular Hindu God. His blessings are believed to remove all obstacles to one’s success. He is the giver of fortune, wisdom, and prosperity, and protector against natural calamities. This is probably why Ganesh Chaturthi, the birthday of the Elephant God, is one of the most popular festivals in India.
This popular Hindu festival, also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chavithi, is celebrated during the month of Bhadrapada. According to the Hindu calendar, it falls on the 4th day (Shukla Chaturthi), and ends on the 14th day of the first fortnight (Anant Chaturdashi). This year, the festival will be celebrated on 22nd August. It is a popular belief that during this time, Lord Ganesha visits the home of his devotees and brings good luck and fortune for them.
On this day, devotees pray to God to give them spiritual strength, so that they succeed in their endeavours. The grandeur of this festival is noticed in states like Goa, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra.
There are a number of rituals and customs that people follow during this festival-
A popular tradition followed on the first day of Ganesh Chaturthi is to avoid looking at the Moon. Looking at the Moon on Ganesh Chaturthi creates Mithya Dosham or Mithya Kalank, which means false accusation of stealing something.
1. During this festival, people sing devotional songs, dance, observe fasts, bedeck their houses, and burst crackers. The day begins with the worshippers taking a ritual bath and donning new clothes to perform the worship of Ganesha. Cleanliness and purity of the body and mind is a pre-requisite for performing any kind of worship. A Ganesha idol is bathed in scented water (Abhishekam) and then covered in new saffron cloth. It is safely placed on a pedestal and adorned with sandalwood paste and fresh flower garlands.
2. Modak, a dumpling of rice or flour stuffed with grated jaggery, coconuts, and dry fruits, is a popular food in this festival and is the main ‘prasad’ offered to Lord Ganesha. It is considered to be the lord’s, favourite sweet. Other delicacies of this festival include Appam, Pedha, Sundal, Barfi, Laddoo, and Karanji.
3. The Madhyahna Ganesha Puja - The auspicious time for performing the prayers will be for 2 hours and 36 minutes, from 11:06 am to 01:42 pm.
Lord Ganesha is worshipped with sixteen rituals. The prayers are followed by “Puranik Mantras”, which are chanted during Ganesha Chaturthi Puja. Some of the popular Ganesh pooja Mantras sung by the devotees on this day are ‘Ganesha Shubh Labh Mantra’, ‘Ganesha Gayatri Mantra’, ‘Vakratunda Ganesha Mantra' among others. After this, devotees bow in front of Lord Ganesha and pray for the well being of everyone. They also apologize for any mistake done and ask the Lord to cleanse them of their sins.
The Ganesh Chaturthi rituals conclude with the aarti of Lord Ganesha. Aarti is a ritual of worship in the Hindu religion in which a sacred earthen lamp, containing a cotton wick, which is dipped in pure ghee and lit, is circulated around the deity. The aarti is performed twice on that day, once during the morning and then in the evening. On the 11th day of the celebrations, Ganesha Visarjan is celebrated, in which the idol is submerged in water.