Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated all over India as the birthday of Ganesha, the god with the elephant head. Traditionally, on this occasion, various pujas are organised at various places including households. Modak is given to devotees as ‘Prasad’. Milk is also offered to idols of Ganpati that are kept at homes, temples and places of social gatherings. Sweets are an essential part of the Ganesha Festival. Preparations for the occasion begin months before the festival with skilled artisans creating idols of all sizes, big or small, and in various forms.
Lord Ganesha is regarded as the god of wisdom, knowledge and prosperity. Hindus believe that He helps remove all obstacles in one’s path. The festival is most popular in the state of Maharashtra in India and is celebrated with zest and vigour. Customs dictate the number of days a Ganesha idol can be kept at home. A lot of religious activities take place during the tenth and last day of the festival. Devotees submerge idols of the famed god in water bodies such as a river or an ocean. While submerging the idol, prayers and slogans are uttered earnestly requesting the Ganesha to return as early as possible next year. People believe firmly in their hearts that the idol carries along with it all the problems that the people bear while being submerged.
Legend says that Goddess Parvati created Ganesha from the sandalwood dough which she would use while bathing. She then infused life into the mould and set him to guard the door while she went in to bathe. When her husband, lord Shiva returned, Ganesha did not allow him to enter. In his fit of rage lord Shiva beheaded Ganesha. When Parvati came to know about the incident, she asked Shiva to revive her son. In order to pacify the grief of his wife, Shiva replaced her son’s head with that of an elephant, and thus the elephant head god Ganesha was born.
The festival is celebrated across several Indian states. The states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in particular celebrate it to the fullest. At social gathering a huge podium is erected with the idol at the centre. People clean their homes before the festival in a bid to welcome the arrival of the Elephant God. People perform puja at least twice a day. On the tenth day i.e. Ananta Chaturdashi, a grand procession is taken of the idol and people sing and dance to tunes before the idol is immersed in the sea. Chants of ‘Ganpatti Bappa Morya’ can be easily heard from any rooftop.
According to Hindu mythology, looking at moon on the first night of festivities is not allowed. There is a myth attached to this occasion. It is said that the Moon laughed at lord Ganesha when he fell from his vehicle, mooshak-the rat. The Moon was then cursed for laughing and whoever looks at the moon on the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi would be falsely accused of something. The festival has a lot of emotional connect attached with the common masses. People give gifts to each other and celebrate the arrival of the elephant-god.