On the fourth day after the new moon that occurs in the month of Bhadrapada, people of the Hindu culture celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi.
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Depending on the faith of individuals and families, the holiday lasts one to 11 days and commemorates the birth of the god, Lord Ganesha, who is known as the entity bearing an elephant’s head and four arms. Lord Ganesha, the son of Lord Shiva and the goddess Parvati, is the god of good fortune, prosperity and wisdom. In the faith, Ganesh is thought to favour all.
Documentation indicates that Ganesh Chaturthi was celebrated publicly in the 17th century during the time of Shivaji, who established the Maratha Empire. Prior to this time, the god was commemorated privately in the homes of Hindus. By 1893, Lokmanya Tilak organised the festival into a large public event in order to unify the Brahmin and non-Brahmin peoples.
Residents in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu commonly participate in the Ganesh Chaturthi festivities. During this time, believers often travel to larger cities like Mumbai and offer prayers and gifts in the Siddhivinayak Temple. The temple was constructed and dedicated to Lord Ganesha.
Activities and Festivities
On the first day of the festival, individuals and families bring statues of Ganesha into their homes or place them on platforms under tents throughout communities. The statues are crafted from any number of materials including plaster of Paris. Some are carved from clay, chocolate, laddu or paddy. The size and price of the likeness varies greatly.
Once installed in the desired location, the ritual known as Pranapratishhtha Puja occurs. Priests invoke the god’s presence into the likenesses by chanting mantras and offering prayers. The statues are also commonly anointed with chandan powder. In addition to public locations, the holy men also provide this service to private individuals if desired.
Throughout the festivities, believers bring offerings of coconut, flowers, jaggery, traditional sweets and coins. Prayers are offered by priests and citizens daily. When residents display the statues in their homes, Ganesha is regarded as an honoured guest. Performing the rituals is also a means of asking the god for his blessings. With the advent of technology, Hindus may send Ganesh Chaturthi prayers and blessing to friends and family members. Gift-giving is also not uncommon during the event.
Last day of Ganesh Chaturthi
During the 11 day celebrations, various cities and communities may create a carnival-like atmosphere by hosting live concerts or art exhibits. Larger cities in particular often offer no-cost medical evaluations, organise blood drives and other charitable acts that benefit the less fortunate.
On the last day of the festival, which is known as Ananta Chaturdasi, statues are paraded through the streets accompanied by singing and dancing. Arriving at the ocean, a specially constructed water tank or other body of water, participants submerse the statues, which releases the entity and symbolically returns the materials back to the earth. Private residents may submerse their statues in buckets of water or use similar options.
As government officials expressed a growing concern over the water pollution that may occur when immersing statues created from perishable materials, citizens are encouraged to avoid using public waterways for the ceremony. Artists are also encouraged to use non-perishable materials when creating Ganesh. In this way, the likenesses may be used consecutively year after year.