India - Ganesh Chaturthi Festival of India

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)

Ganesh Chaturthi Festival of India

Lord Ganesha, warmly called Ganapati, is India’s chubby, smiling and a little mischievous elephant head God. His devotees ascribe to Ganesha the ability to grant wisdom and wealth upon humans, thus making him probably the most popular idol in the Hindu religion. To repay Ganesha's reward, especially in Maharashtra and nearby areas, the entire population celebrates the ten-day festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. It falls in between the months of August and September.

The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated as the birth anniversary of Lord Ganesha. During the ten days of Ganesh Chaturthi, the image of the God is worshipped in most homes, temples and halls. Fasting, feasting and distribution of sweets are important aspects of Ganesh Chaturthi rituals in India. Hindus pray to images of Lord Ganesha which are made especially for the occasion by cottage industries and street-side artisans.

Before the ten-day ceremony begins, the households attain an excellent state of purity. Houses, especially the place where the idol is to be placed, is cleaned several days before the festival. Newly moulded clay idols of Ganesha are bought from the street-side shops. As the evening approaches, the idol is placed in the puja room.

The ceremony begins by placing the image in a sacred throne like arena. The worshipper then sips holy water and bows before Ganesha. The priest then performs a ritual by which the idol is said to be imbued with life. Worshippers bathe and the priest wears a silken lower garment, usually red, with a shawl around his shoulders. The Ganapati aarti then completes the rituals of the first day.

For the remaining days, the idol is worshipped, morning and evening, with simple recitations of the, devotional songs, offerings of flowers, incense and lamps. There is a lot of pandal hopping and the atmosphere is of joy and gaiety. There are competitions and prizes for the best and the safest pandal. The sheer grandeur and craftsmanship along with the innovations which are included to out do the other pandals is breath taking. People dressed in their best celebrate the birthday of this generous God with pomp and joy.

After ten days of ritual worship, the God returns to his heavenly abode and his image is immersed in water. All the devotees join in the procession to the final destination at the banks of a river or the ocean in Mumbai. Shouts of “Ganapati Bappa Mourya” meaning “Oh Lord Ganesh come again early next year” resound all around. The immersion ritual is simple. Parting gifts of coconuts, flowers and burning camphor cubes are offered to the idol, accompanied by the singing of the devotional songs. The immersion marks the end of the ten-day festival.


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