It’s that time of the year when there’s a positive charge in the air. Everything appears to have woken up from a deep slumber. The arrival of the monsoon has infused new life into our parched lives with the dust-laden trees trying to outdo each other in showing off their long-suppressed shades of green. And then this change in the weather ushers in the season of festivals and celebrations. After the hot summer months, it’s like the monsoons have come to cleanse us before we get started with the rituals.
It all aptly begins with the Ganesh puja. In Hinduism, it is believed that Lord Ganesh must be worshipped first before starting any work. He is the remover of obstacles, the god of wisdom. Lord Ganesh has an endearing personality with his elephant head, love for sweets (especially modak) and amazing stories. Maybe that’s why He is lovingly called Bappa.
Birth of Lord Ganesh
The story of the birth of Lord Ganesh is quite interesting. One day Goddess Parvati wanted to go for a bath and asked Nandi (Shiva’s Bull) to stand guard outside and not let anyone enter. It was when Lord Shiva returned home and Nandi, without a thought, let him in that Parvati was furious for being disobeyed. She scrubbed off the turmeric paste that she had applied to her body before the bath and created a boy, Ganesh, with it. Unbeknownst to Shiva, she breathed life into this and called him her own son.
The next time when Parvati had to go for a bath, she made Ganesh stand guard. On Shiva’s return, Ganesh did not let him as per his mother’s instructions. Shiva was angry and beheaded Ganesh. Parvati was outraged and was ready to destroy the world when Lord Brahma intervened. Parvati relented but with a condition – the lifeless body of Ganesh be brought back to life and that Ganesh should be worshipped before any of the other gods. Shiva agreed and asked Lord Brahma to get the head of the first creature lying with his head facing north. He returned with the head of a young elephant. Shiva placed the elephant head on Ganesh and breathed life into him. Thus, Ganesh became the elephant-head god, son of Parvati and Shiva.
Ganesh puja as a community celebration
Ganesh Chaturthi has become a big public celebration, getting grander with each year. The credit for this must be given to Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak. It was Tilak who transformed these private celebrations into a public festival. His objective was the gradual awakening of the Hindu Sanatan majority who were being side-lined by the British in favour of the Muslims for their own selfish purposes. The Sarvajanik Ganesh ustav brought the Hindus together, organised them into societies and created an identity for them. Today, the Sarvajanik Ganesh pandals are the places for cultural activities, community celebrations and bonding.
Every region has its own unique way of celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi. In Maharashtra, Bappa is invited and so is his mother, Goddess Gauri. It is said that Goddess Gauri follows her son and returns to her maternal home. Hence, her visit is like the return of a daughter to her own home after a long time and is celebrated thus. Special dishes are made for the daughter who has visited them after a year. Goddess Gauri is worshipped as Varalaxmi in the southern states of India. In some states, Goddess Gauri is worshipped as the sister, and NOT the mother, of Ganesh.
It all ends with the Visarjan
Lord Ganesh is invited to our homes and visits us for 10 days. These days are filled up with festivities and coming together of all to celebrate the festival. On the eleventh day, the day of Ananth Chaturdashi, the Ganesh visarjan takes place with great fanfare. People take the Ganesh idols for immersing in the water. Hordes of people accompany their idols, loving biding them adieu shouting “Ganapati bappa morya”.
Ganesh and Gauri puja celebrations
What has been a heartening trend this year is the number of people opting for eco-friendly Ganesh idols and also the way the visarjan was being done. From using coconuts, supari or even clay to make the idols to doing the visarjan at home or in the artificial ponds created for this purpose, Ganapati celebrations have created more awareness in the people about the impact on the environment. A befitting way to celebrate the Lord of wisdom.
With this ends the festivities for the Ganesh puja until next year. Ganapati Bappa Morya! Psst..if you plan to buy using the affiliate links below, I’ll be getting a small commission at no extra cost to you. And the only reason I’ve recommended these products is because I had bought them too for myself!