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Lord Ganesha

Lord Ganesha


This ten-day Hindu festival

This ten-day festival, celebrated in Maharashtra during the bright half of Bhadrapad, commemorates the birth of Ganesha. It is marked with a grand procession of the elephant-headed god.

This is a ten-day festival, dedicated to Ganesha. Celebrated from the fourth to the fourteenth day in the bright fortnight of Bhadrapad, it is specially important in Maharashtra and is one of the cultural highlights of the state. LokManya Tilak, the illustrious freedom fighter of Maharashtra, popularised this festival.

The festival begins on the fourth day of Bhadrapad, which is celebrated as Ganesha Chaturthi in the rest of India. This day is very important to all Hindus, who believe that by praying to the remover of obstructions, people hope to dispel all obstacles from their lives. Some people believe that this was the day Ganesha was born.

The most popular belief how ever, is based on a story in Skanda Purana. Once Ganesha was invited for a feast in Chandralok. The god, known for his ravenous appetite, stuffed himself with laddoos. When he got up to walk after the meal, he could not balance because of his huge stomach and stumbled. As he fell, his stomach bur stand all the laddoos came rolling out. The moon could not contain himself and began laughing. Enraged, Ganesha cursed the moon, causing him to vanish from the universe. However because of the moon's absence, the whole world began to wane. So the gods asked Shiva to persuade Ganesha to relent. There pentant moon also apologized for his misbehavior. On Shiva's intervention, Ganesha modified his curse. He announced that the moon would be invisible on only one day of a month, and would be partially seen for the Ganesha Utsav most part.

Shiva, Parvati with Lord Ganesha
Ganesh Utsav is a 10-days festival dedicated to Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati

It would however, be visible in its full glory only once a month as well. Since the incident occurred on the fourth day of Bhadrapad, he also added that anyone who looked at the moon on the fourth day of any month, specially of Bhadrapad, would be falsely accused of some wrongdoing.

The day is also called Dagadi Chautha, or 'stone-throwing fourth day', in some places, stemming from the belief that if one inadvertently sees the moon on that night, one should throw stones on his neighbour's roof to avert any calamity arising from the curse. In Maharashtra, the great festival of Ganesha begins on this day, with his idol being ceremonially installed. The next ten days, before the beginning of the inauspicious dark half of the month, are spent in praying to the god. These days are considered specially auspicious due to Ganesha's presence in the idol. Vighneshvar, the remover of obstacles, reciprocates by using his powers all through the year.

Before the ten-day rite begins, the house and devotees must acquire a superlative state of purity. This is accomplished by cleaning or whitewashing the house or at least the place where the idol is to be placed. Worshippers bathe and the priest wears a silken lower garment, usually red, with a shawl around his shoulders. The puja begins at the time designated according to calculations based on the ritual calendar. The ceremony begins by placing the image, usually made of terracotta, in a sacred arena, symbolic of a throne. The worshipper then sips holy water and performs pranayama; he then bows and prostrates before Ganesha and all the other gods. This is followed by the Sankalpa Mantra.

Immersion Ganesha's idol
The immersion of the idol of Ganesha marks the end of the festival

The priest then performs a ritual by which the idol is said to be imbued with life. Next follows the traditional puja. This completes the rituals of the first day. For the remaining days, the image is worshipped, morning and evening with simple recitations of the Ganesha Stuti, devotional songs, offerings of flowers and incense, and lamps.

After ten days of ritual worship, the god returns to his heavenly abode and his image is immersed in water. The farewell procession is a pandemonium of musicians, dancers, acrobats, singers, priests, onlookers and numerous Ganesha idols from a number of houses and temples. All join in the procession to the final destination at the ghats of a river or the ocean in Mumbai and other coastal areas. Shouts of 'Ganapathi bappa Moraya, Purchya varshi laukariya' or 'beloved Ganesha, Lord of Moraya, come again early next year' resound all around. The immersion ritual is simple. Final gifts of coconuts, flowers and burning camphor cubes are offered to the idol, accompanied by the singing of aratis. Then a few people carry it far enough into the river to immerse it, where it quickly dissolves. The Ganesha Utsav immersion marks the end of the ten-day festival.

The festival is not just restricted to homes. In fact, most areas in Maharashtra organize their own programmes. The local communities install huge, elaborately decorated statues of the idol in glamorous tents. In some places, the idol is adorned with precious gems and gold, which requires strict police vigil. Other than the ritual worship of the idol, the ten days also feature many cultural activities, including the singing of devotional songs, dramatic performances, dances, films, lectures and speeches by various public figures. Lezam and acrobatics are two of the most popular performances during these ten days.

Seeking the spirit of India, Jai Hind

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