Ganesh Chaturthi, the birthday of Lord Ganesha is celebrated with a lot of fervor and devotion. Lord Ganesha is the God of wisdom, knowledge, prosperity and good beginnings. He is also the remover of obstacles and for this reason, he is also known by the name ‘Vighnaharta’. It is one of the major festivals celebrated in India and falls on the fourth day after the new moon in the month of August or September. This year, it begins today, September 4 and will end after 10 days on Anant Chaturdashi (15th Sept.) when the idol of the Lord will be immersed in water. This ritual is known as Ganesh Visarjan and people sing and dance while carrying the Ganesha idol to the nearest water body. It is a grand affair especially in Mumbai.
Legend of Ganesha
As per the Hindu mythology, Lord Ganesha who is the son of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva was created by Parvati from the sandalwood paste which she used for bathing. After the idol was created, she breathed life into him and asked Ganesha to guard the door while she took a bath. Ganesha was following her orders when Lord Shiva came and asked Ganesha to let him go inside. Ganesha refused as he was asked to guard the door and not let anyone in; he wasn’t aware who Lord Shiva was. This enraged Shiva and he cut off Ganesha’s head in anger. As soon as Parvati got to know what happened, she became very angry and threatened to destroy the world. Then Lord Shiva replaced the head of Lord Ganesha with an elephant’s head as devas couldn’t find the head of a dead person facing North. Lord Shiva also declared that from this day the boy would be called Ganesha (Gana Isha : Lord of Ganas).
According to the Linga Purana, Ganesha was created by Shiva and Parvati at the request of the devas (divine beings) to be a vighnakartaa (obstacle-creator) in the path of rakshasas (demonic beings), and a vighnahartaa (obstacle-averter) to help the devas.
Celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi
People install a clay statue of Ganesha at their home and worship it in the morning and evening until the day of Visarjan. They sing songs, perform prayers and offer flowers, fruits, 21 Durva grass, modak, dhoop etc to the Lord. In different localities, pandals are set up and priests offer special prayers to Ganesha. Modak is the main dish made for this occasion as it is said to be Lord Ganesha’s favourite. It is believed that one shouldn’t see the moon on Ganesh Chaturthi as that creates Mithya Kalank or Mithya Dosha which means the person who sights the moon will be falsely accused of theft. But if someone sights the moon by mistake then one can read or listen to the story of the Syamantaka jewel as narrated in chapters 56 and 57 of the tenth skandha of Srimad Bhagavatam. One can also chant the mantra given below to get rid of Mithya dosha:
Simhah Prasenamavadhitsimho Jambavata Hatah
Sukumaraka Marodistava Hyesha Syamantakah.
Depending on the beginning and the end of Chaturthi date, moon sighting should be avoided for two consecutive days.