There are two popular legends associated with Lord Ganesha. According to one, Ganesha is believed to have been created from the dough, which Goddess Parvati had created to take bath. Parvati wanted somebody to guard the doorway while she took a bath and so Ganesha was ‘created’.
When Lord Shiva came to meet her, Ganesha did not recognize him and so refused to give him entry into the house. Outraged, Lord Shiva beheaded Lord Ganesha. When Goddess Parvati got to know, she felt very sad and refused to meet Lord Shiva until he ‘fixed’ his mistake. And so, Lord Shiva went to search for the head of a dead person, and instead ended up finding one of a dying elephant. He fitted it onto the body of Ganesha and brought him back to life. This is how Lord Ganesha was revived with the head of an elephant rather than of a human.
In another legend, Lord Ganesha ate too many laddoos upon being invited to a feast in Chandralok. He ate so many that his stomach burst and the Moon saw this and started laughing at Lord Ganesha. He cursed the Moon and said that the Moon will be invisible on one day, every month, and would only be partially visible on the day of Ganesha Chaturthi. He also said that anybody who will look at the moon on the day of Ganesha Chaturthi will have to face a false accusation. This is the reason why people avoid looking at the moon on the day of Ganesha Chaturthi.
In the context of worship and puja, the Sanskrit word 'Visarjan' refers to the act of respectfully laying the idol, used for worship, to rest. After ten days of worship of Lord Ganesha, the idol is taken to a holy river for immersion/visarjan. This year, since Ganesha Chaturthi will be celebrated on 22nd August, Ganesha Visarjan will be celebrated on 1st September.
The idol is taken in a procession with grandeur, while people chant the slogan, “Ganapati Bappa Morya”. With the immersion of the idol, the Ganesha Chaturthi rituals come to an end. Like everything else comes to an end when the time comes, the idol is also returned to nature. We are all made up of flesh and bones, animated by the power of our soul. Our body too, will one day, return to nature. There is a lot of significance attached to Ganapati Visarjan. It is believed that Lord Ganesh bids goodbye to his devotees after immersion, and takes away all their misfortunes with him.
Chaturdashi is the 14th day of the lunar fortnight. It falls 10 days after Ganesha Chaturthi. The day of Anant Chaturdashi is considered the most significant day to perform Ganesha Visarjan. Following family traditions, some families perform Ganesha Visarjan on the 3rd, 5th, or 7th day, rather than performing it on the 11th day. It is important to note that all these days are in odd numbers. The idol of Lord Ganesha can be immersed in a tub or bucket of water.
In Mumbai, especially, the festival is celebrated on a large scale, so much so that the roads in the entire state are blocked. Mumbaikars celebrate Ganesha Visarjan under the guidance of Ganpati Mandals. The street procession is accompanied by Dhol, Tasha, and the other traditional musical instruments. The festival continues throughout the night, until the next morning.