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Ganesh Chaturthi
Gsb
GSB Mandal's Ganesha image worshipped in Mumbai, Maharashtra. It is one of the richest Ganesha Mandals in Mumbai.
Observed by Hindus
Type Religious, folk
Begins shukla chaturthi
Ends Anant Chaturdashi
Date August/September
Celebrations Setting up Mantapas, street processions and idol immersion

Ganesha Chaturthi (गणेश चतुर्थी) is a Hindu festival of Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati, who is believed to bestow his presence on earth for all his devotees. It is also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi. It is the birthday of Lord Ganesha. The festival is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Bhaadrapada, starting on the shukla chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon period). The date usually falls between 20 August and 15 September. The festival lasts for 10 days, ending on Anant Chaturdashi. This festival is observed in the lunar month of bhadrapada shukla paksha chathurthi madhyahana vyapini purvaviddha. If Chaturthi prevails on both days, the first day should be observed. Even if chaturthi prevails for the complete duration of madhyahana on the second day, if it prevails on the previous day's madhyahana period even for one ghatika (24 minutes), the previous day should be observed.[1]

Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati, is widely worshipped as the supreme god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune.

While celebrated all over India, it is most elaborate in Maharashtra, Goa,Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and other areas. Outside India, it is celebrated widely in Nepal which was only Hindu Kingdom in the world and Tamil Hindus in Sri Lanka.

In the meantime, Lord Shiva returned from the battle, but as Ganesha did not know him Ganesha stopped Shiva from entering Parvati's chamber. Shiva, enraged by Ganesh’s impudence, drew his trident and cut off Ganesha's head. Parvati emerged to find Ganesha decapitated and flew into a rage. She took on the form of the Goddess Kali and threatened destruction of the three worlds, heaven, earth and the subterranean.

Parvati was in a dangerous mood and, seeing her in this mood, the other gods were afraid. Shiva, in an attempt to pacify Parvati, sent his ganas, or hordes, to find a child whose mother is facing away from the child in negligence, to cut off the child's head and return quickly with it. The first living thing they came across was an elephant facing north, the auspicious direction associated with wisdom, so they returned with the head of the elephant. Shiva placed it on the headless body of Parvati's son and breathed life into him. Parvati was overjoyed and embraced her son, the elephant-headed boy whom Shiva named Ganesha, the lord of his ganas. Parvati was still upset, however, so Lord Shiva announced that everyone who worships Ganesha before any other form of God is favoured. This is why Ganesh is worshipped first at all Hindu occasions and festivals.

History

B. G. Tilak

Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak

Before 1893, Ganesh Chaturthi used to be an important public festival during the Peshwa rule in Maharashtra, but that year, Indian freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak transformed the annual festival into a large, well-organized public event[2].

Tilak recognized the wide appeal of the deity Ganesh as "the god for everybody"[3][4], and popularized Ganesh Chaturthi as a national festival in order "to bridge the gap between Brahmins and 'non-Brahmins' and find a context in which to build a new grassroots unity between them", and generate nationalistic fervor among people in Maharashtra against the British colonial rule[5][6].

Tilak encouraged installation of large public images of Ganesh in pavilions, and also established the practice of submerging in rivers, sea, or other pools of water all public images of the deity on the tenth day after Ganesh Chaturthi[7].

Under Tilak's encouragement, the festival facilitated community participation and involvement in the form of intellectual discourses, poetry recitals, performances of plays, musical concerts, and folk dances. It served as a meeting ground for people of all castes and communities in times when, in order to exercise control over the population, the British discouraged social and political gatherings.

Celebration, Rituals and Tradition

In India

File:Ganesh utsav.jpg

Two to three months prior to Ganesh Chaturthi, artistic clay models of Lord Ganesha are made for sale by specially skilled artisans. They are beautifully decorated & depict Lord Ganesh in various poses. The size of these statues may vary from 3/4th of an inch to over 25 feet.

Ganesh Chaturthi starts with the installation of these Ganesh statues in colorfully decorated homes and specially erected temporary structures mantapas (pandals) in every locality. The pandals are erected by the people or a specific society or locality or group by collecting monetary contributions. The mantapas are decorated specially for the festival, either by using decorative items like flower garlands, lights, etc or are theme based decorations, which depict religious themes or current events.

The priest, usually clad in red silk dhoti and shawl, then symbolically invokes life into the statue by chanting mantras. This ritual is the Pranapratishhtha. After this the ritual called as Shhodashopachara (16 ways of paying tribute) follows. Coconut, jaggery, 21 modakas, 21 durva (trefoil) blades of grass and red flowers are offered. The statue is anointed with red unguent, typically made of Kumkum & Sandalwood paste . Throughout the ceremony, Vedic hymns from the Rig Veda, the Ganapati Atharva Shirsha Upanishad, and the Ganesha stotra from the Narada Purana are chanted.

Ganesh mimarjanam 2 EDITED

Ganesh Visarjan

For 10 days, from Bhadrapad Shudh Chaturthi to the Ananta Chaturdashi, Ganesha is worshipped. On the 11th day, the statue is taken through the streets in a procession accompanied with dancing, singing, and fanfare to be immersed in a river or the sea symbolizing a ritual see-off of the Lord in his journey towards his abode in Kailash while taking away with him the misfortunes of his devotees, this is the ritual known as Ganesh Visarjan. All join in this final procession shouting "Ganapathi Bappa Morya, Purchya Varshi Laukar ya" (O father Ganesha, come again speedily next year). After the final offering of coconuts, flowers and camphor is made, people carry the statue to the river to immerse it.

The main sweet dish during the festival is the modak (modagam or modakam in South India). A modak is a dumpling made from rice flour/wheat flour with a stuffing of fresh or dry-grated coconut, jaggery, dry fruits and some other condiments. It is either steam-cooked or fried. Another popular sweet dish is the karanji (karjikaiin Kannada) which is similar to the modak in composition and taste but has a semicircular shape.

Public celebrations of the festival are hugely popular, with local communities (mandalas) vying with each other to put up the biggest statue & the best pandal. The festival is also the time for cultural activities like songs, dramas and orchestra and community activities like free medical checkup, blood donation camps, charity for the poor, etc.and enjoy

Today, the Ganesh Festival is not only a popular festival, it has become a very critical and important economic activity for Maharashtra. Many artists, industries, and businesses survive on this mega-event. Ganesh Festival also provides a stage for budding artists to present their art to the public. The same holds true for Hyderabad too.

Outside India

Ganesha Paris 2009

Dancers in Paris streets during the 2009 Ganesh Chaturthi festival

Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in the UK by the migrant Hindu population as well as the large number of Indians residing there. The Hindu culture and Heritage Society, UK - a Southall based organisation celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi for the first time in London in 2005 at The Vishwa Hindu Temple. The Idol was immersed in the river Thames at Putney Pier.

The festival is similarly celebrated in many locations across the world. The Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA, an organisation of Hindus based in the US organises many such events to mark the various Hindu festivals.

In Canada, Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated by various associations of Marathi speaking people. (MBM in Toronto, MSBC in Vancouver etc).

Celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi in Mauritius dates back to 1896. The first Ganesh Chaturthi Puja was held in the 7 Cascades Valley next to Henrietta village by the Bhiwajee family who is still celebrating this pious festival for more than a century.

Over the years the festival gained such popularity on the island that Mauritian government has attributed a public holiday for that day.

Environmental impact

The most serious impact of the Ganesh festival on the natural environment is due to the immersion of icons made of Plaster of Paris into lakes, rivers and the sea. Traditionally, the Ganesh icon was sculpted out of earth taken from nearby one’s home. After worshipping the divinity in this earth icon, it was returned back to the Earth by immersing it in a nearby water body. This cycle represented the cycle of creation and dissolution in Nature.

However, as the production of Ganesh icons on a commercial basis grew, the earthen or natural clay (shaadu maati in Marathi) was replaced by Plaster of Paris. Plaster is a man made material, easier to mould, lighter and less expensive than clay. However, plaster takes much longer to dissolve and in the process of dissolution releases toxic elements into the water body. The chemical paints used to adorn these plaster icons themselves contain heavy metals like mercury and cadmium.

After immersion broken

On the final day of the Ganesh festival thousands of plaster icons are immersed into water bodies by devotees. These increase the level of acidity in the water and the content of heavy metals.[8] The day after the immersion, shoals of dead fish can be seen floating on the surface of the water body as a result of this sudden increase.[9]

Lake spoiled with pop ganesha idols

Lake contaminated with Plaster of Paris Ganesha idols

Several non governmental and governmental bodies have been addressing this issue. Amongst the solutions proposed by various groups some are as follows:

  • Return to the traditional use of natural clay icons and immerse the icon in a bucket of water at home.[10]
  • Use of a permanent icon made of stone and brass, used every year and a symbolic immersion only.
  • Recycling of plaster icons to repaint them and use them again the following year.
  • Ban on the immersion of plaster icons into lakes, rivers and the sea.[11]
  • Creative use of other biodegradable materials such as paper mache to create Ganesh icons.
  • Encouraging people to immerse the icons in tanks of water rather than in natural water bodies.[12]

To handle religious sentiments sensitively, some temples and spiritual groups have also taken up the cause.[13]

Gallery

References

  1. (Ref. Dharmasindhu and Indian Calendric System, by Commodore S.K. Chatterjee (Retd). Madhyahana is the 3rd / 5th part of the day (Sunrise-sunset). (Ganesh Chaturthi festival calculation information provided by mypanchang.com)
  2. Metcalf, Thomas R.; Metcalf, Barbara Daly. A Concise History of India. Metcalf and Metcalf, p. 150.
  3. Momin, A. R., The Legacy Of G. S. Ghurye: A Centennial Festschrift, p. 95.
  4. For Ganesha's appeal as "the god for Everyman" as a motivation for Tilak, see: Brown (1991), p. 9.
  5. Brown, Robert L. (1991). Ganesh: Studies of an Asian God. Albany: State University of New York. ISBN 0-7914-0657-1. Brown (1991), p. 9.
  6. For Tilak's role in converting the private family festivals to a public event in support of Indian nationalism, see: Thapan, p. 225.
  7. For Tilak as the first to use large public images in maṇḍapas (pavilions or tents) see: Thapan, p. 225.Thapan, Anita Raina (1997). Understanding Gaņapati: Insights into the Dynamics of a Cult. New Delhi: Manohar Publishers. ISBN 81-7304-195-4. 
  8. M. Vikram Reddy, A. Vijay Kumar (December 2001). Effects of Ganesh-icon immersion on some water quality parameters of Hussainsagar Lake. 
  9. Icons choke rivers of India
  10. The Ecosensitive Ganesh Festival campaign
  11. Ganesh immersions ruled unlawful
  12. Green Ganesh
  13. Ganesh immersion: temple’s campaign finds many takers

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