Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the major festivals celebrated in India with great enthusiasm and devotion. The festival marks the birthday of Lord Ganesha; the Lord of knowledge, wisdom, prosperity, and good fortune. The festival is also known as Vinayak Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chavithi. This day, observed as one of the most auspicious in the Hindu religion, is widely celebrated especially in the state of Maharashtra.
The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi finds its origin in the Maratha reign, with Chatrapati Shivaji starting the festival. The belief lies in the story of the birth of Ganesha, the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Although there are various stories attached to his birth, the one most relevant is shared here. Goddess Parvati was the creator of Ganpati. She, in the absence of Lord Shiva, used her sandalwood paste to create Ganesha and put him to guard while she had gone for bathing. While she was gone, Lord Shiva got into a fight with Ganesha as he did not allow him to enter, as per his mother’s orders. Enraged, Lord Shiva cut off Ganesha's head. When Parvati saw this sight, she took the form of Goddess Kali and threatened to destroy the world. This worried everyone and they requested Lord Shiva to find a solution and calm the rage of Goddess Kali. Shiva then ordered all his followers to immediately go and find a child whose mother has her back towards her child in negligence and bring his head. The first child seen by the followers was that of an elephant and they, as ordered, cut his head and brought it to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva immediately placed the head on Ganesha's body and brought it to life again. The rage of Maa Kali was calmed and Goddess Parvati was overwhelmed, once again. All the Lord blessed Ganesha and the day is today celebrated for the same reason.
Ganesh Chaturthi preparations commence almost a month before the festival. The celebrations last for around ten days (from Bhadrapad Shudh Chaturthi to Ananta Chaturdashi). On the first day, a clay idol of Lord Ganesha is installed in homes. Homes are decorated with flowers. Temples witness the visit of a large number of devotees. Poojas are performed and bhajans are chanted. Often, families gather together to celebrate the festival. Localities organize and arrange for pandals and install large idols of Lord Ganesha to celebrate the festival with friends and family. On the final day of the celebrations, the idol of Lord Ganesha is taken on the streets. People exhibit their enthusiasm and joy in the form of dancing and singing on the streets along with the idol. The idol is finally immersed in the river or sea. The day witnesses a large number of devotees expressing their happiness and offering their prayers.
Ganesha puja starts by installing a clay idol of Lord Ganesha in your home. Various dishes are cooked for offering (bhog). The idol is given a bath with pure water and then decorated with flowers. Jyoti is lite and then the aarti begins. Various bhajans and mantras are chanted at this time. It is believed that chanting the mantras with complete devotion brings life to the idol. It is also believed that during this period, Ganesha visits the home of his devotees and brings prosperity and good fortune to them. For the same reason, the day is observed as a very auspicious day. Worshipping the Ganpati Yantra will bring you great success in life.
Although there are a large number of sweets offered to Lord Ganesha during the puja, Modak is known to be the lord’s favourite sweet and is, therefore, one of the main dishes made on this day. Other dishes include Karanji, laddoo, barfi, and pede.