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Ganesh Chaturthi 2017: History, significance, guide and rituals of Ganpati festival

Ganesh Chaturthi (August 25) marks the beginning of a 10-day-long festival to celebrate the birth of Lord Ganesha. Here are some facts about the festival.

art and culture Updated: Aug 25, 2017 08:43 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Ganesh Chaturthi,What to expect on Ganesh Chaturthi,Ganeshotsav
A visit to Lalbaugcha Raja is believed to fulfil all your wishes and attracts millions of visitors.(HT file photo )

Devotees of Ganesha look forward all year to Ganeshotsav, a 10-day festival during which the idol is brought home or to public pandals and it is followed by festivities. This year, the festival is being held between August 25 and September 5. While it is one of the most important festivals in Maharashtra, there are celebrations held across the country as well as in states like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

During Ganeshotsav, devotees throng pandals across Mumbai and other cities, and feast on sweets such as modak, which is considered Ganesha’s favourite. To mark the end of the festival, the idols are immersed in water (visarjan) to the chants of Ganpati Bappa Moraya, Pudhchya Varshi Lavkar Ya (come back soon next year).

Here are some facts about the festival:

The Mumbaicha Raja Ganpati idol at Ganesh Galli; one of the oldest mandals, they have been around for 90 years. (HT file photo )

Lord Ganesha’s significance in Hindu mythology

Ganesh Chaturthi is believed to mark the birth anniversary of the deity and is celebrated on the fourth day (chaturthi) of the Hindu calendar month of Bhadrapada. Ganesha or Ganpati is the younger son of Lord Shiva and Parvati. He is believed to remove obstacles (hence Vighnaharta, one of his 108 names) and is invoked for blessings at the start of any endeavour as the lord of good beginnings.

There are various stories about his birth. One legend narrates that Ganesha was created by goddess Parvati out of dirt and set to guard her privacy while she had her bath. When Ganesha stopped Lord Shiva from entering their abode, he got angry and severed Ganesha’s head. Parvati was heart-broken and to appease her, Lord Shiva fixed an elephant’s head on the child and thus, the elephant-headed Ganesha came into being. Another legend has it that Ganesha was created on request of the demigods to remove the rakshasas (demons) who were hindering them .

The history of the festival

Its origins are related to the freedom movement. Back in 1893, freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak wanted to bring people together to create a feeling of patriotism. At a time when the British government frowned on Indians gathering together, Tilak urged people to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi publicly.

Mawa modaks are available in a variety of flavours; modaks are believed to be the elephant-headed Ganesha’s favourite sweet. (Shutterstock)

What are the idols made of?
The initial idols were made of mud but over time, Plaster of Paris (POP) became quite common. However, the latter pollutes the rivers and clogs water sources and contains harmful levels of mercury and cadmium. With growing awareness, a lot of people are now opting for eco-friendly idols made of easily dissolvable soil, coconut husk, fish friendly foods, and plant seeds.

Which are the most famous pandals?

Ganeshotsav is celebrated with a great deal of pomp and fervour in Mumbai. The must-visit pandals include Lalbaugcha Raja which is believed to fulfil wishes and attracts millions of visitors; Goud Saraswat Brahmin (GSB) Seva Mandal at King’s Circle, which is considered to be one of the richest mandals and known for their gold idols in the past (this year they won’t feature an expensive idol); and the Keshavji Naik Chawl pandal in Girgaum, one of the oldest pandals (125-years-old) and the pandal where none other than Tilak had come as a visitor.

Which are the best places to buy modaks?

If you are looking for Ukadiche Modak or steamed modak made of rice flour and stuffed with coconut, jaggery, and cardamom, head to Modakam near Prabhadevi or Aaswad in Dadar. For mawa modaks, visit Panshikar Sweets in Girgaon and Dadar.

Why don’t people look at the moon during Ganesh Chaturthi?

A story goes that the moon once laughed at Lord Ganesha and the deity cursed the moon. Hence, anyone who looks at the deity on Ganesh Chaturthi has to face the brunt of false accusations. According to a legend, Lord Krishna looked at the moon during Ganesh Chaturthi and was cursed leading him to be falsely accused of stealing the precious jewel Syamantaka.

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First Published: Aug 25, 2017 08:42 IST