Ganesh Chaturthi 2017: History, Date, Importance and Significance of Ganesh Chaturthi Festival in India
Ganesh Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chaturthi is a 10-day-festival celebrated to honour the birth of Ganesha, Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva’s son. Ganesha is celebrated as the god of all beginnings and is worshiped at the start of any ritual or ceremony as he is known to ward off evil, remove obstacles and bring prosperity. This popularity of the festival brings together people of all class, caste and religion celebrating Ganesha’s birth. However, there are many stories encircling the birth of lord Ganesha and also around the origin of this festival, which we popularly know as Ganesh Chaturthi.
A commonly known story is the birth/creation of Ganesha during Parvati’s bath. According to mythology, Parvati, while having a bath, created Ganesha with the dirt of her body to guard her and not let anyone enter till she finishes. Shiva, who was not present at that moment, appeared moments later and was shocked to see an unknown boy standing outside his wife’s chamber. When Shiva tried entering, Ganesha unaware of Shiva’s identity, stopped him. They both indulged in a combat which ended in Shiva severing Ganesha’s head.
On hearing the commotion, Parvati came out to see her headless child and explained the situation to Shiva. Since Ganesha’s original head could not be joined, the head of the first living creature, in this case an elephant, was attached to his body and the beloved Lord Ganesha was created.
However, the another story states that Shiva and Parvati were requested by the other gods to create an obstacle-creator for the rakshas (demons) and an obstacle-averter for the devas and, hence, Ganesha was born. Both stories have their own interest factors to them. One may choose to believe either of the two but it surely doesn’t lower the enthusiasm with which the god is worshiped and the festival is celebrated.
Interestingly, just like Ganesha, there are stories encircling around the celebration of the festival. The origin of the festival is blurry and has many versions. Many say that it started during the era of the Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji and has continued since then. However, with time the enthusiasm faded. Then the famous freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak brought the festival as we know it today.
The festival as we know it today
Ganesh Chaturthi, is observed during the month of ‘Bhadra’ (mid August or September) and this year it starts from August 25 to September 5. Before the arrival of the festive date, a clay model of Ganesha is carved and then painted (the idol is available in various sizes) . Then the decorated deity is raised on a platform and worshiped for 10 days. On the 11th day, a procession begins with people dancing and chanting prayers around the idol of the deity, which is taken to a nearby lake and immersed in it. The immersion marks the end of the festival as it is believed that with this immersion Ganesha is now believed to have merged with his deity parents Parvati and Shiva.