Ganesh or Vinayaka Chaturthi is dedicated to Lord Ganesh (son of Shiva), the elephant -headed god of all good beginnings and success. The festival celebrated as the birth day of Lord Ganesha, held annually in South India especially with great fervor in Maharashtra, is a ten day long event. On the occasion of the Ganapati festival, a large number of idols are made of clay or metal in all possible sizes sometimes even up to twenty feet.
People buy them and install them in their houses and worship the idol for one to ten days, after which the idol are taken out ceremoniously, carried in a procession through the streets of the town (especially in Maharashtra) and immersed into the river, sea or well. The sea front at Mumbai, packed with people, is a spectacular sight.
A cultural feast is held to coincide with Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra especially at Pune. Classical dance, music performances, poetry recitations, folk dances, theatre and film festival are the main features of this festival.
On the 4th day of the bright half of Bhadrapad, the great festival of Ganesh or Ganpati is celebrated. This festival marked the birthday of Lord Ganesh. Ganpati is one of the most popular deities. Both Shaivites and Vaishnavites worship him. Even Buddhists and Jains have respect for Ganpati. He is considered to be an avatar of both Shiva and Vishnu.
To appreciate this occasion, one must go to Mumbai where preparations begin months in advance. Images of Ganesha are installed within homes as well as in places of assembly. Elaborate arrangements are made for lighting and decoration and Ganesha is fervently worshipped for about 7-10 days.
On the day of the Chaturthi, the last of the days dedicated to the elephant-headed god, thousands of processions converge on the beaches of Mumbai to immerse the holy idols in the sea. This immersion is accompanied by drumbeats, devotional songs and dancing.
Every year, the largest Ganesh idol is installed at Khairatabad in Hyderabad, which is more than 30 ft tall.The Ganapati Mahotsav or the Grand Festival of Ganesha is the principle festival in Bombay, the financial capital of India. In Bombay factories commission the largest of the 6000 or so Ganeshas collectively. Each of these idols can be upto 10 meters in height and are paraded on lorries decorated with multi-colored lights. At the other end of the scale, little Ganeshas are placed in nukkads or street corners and in homes, and pujas are performed daily. The festival was started by Shivaji , the great Maratha ruler, to promote culture and a feeling of nationalism amongst his subjects who were fighting against the Mughals.
After his death the festival was celebrated but on a smaller scale. In 1894 when the British banned public assemblies Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak who felt that this was way of spreading the freedom message through a legitimate religious festival revived the festival.
On full moon day every idol is taken down to the Chowpatty beach accompanied by hordes of people singing and dancing and is immersed in the Arabian Sea.
Ganpati is the god of learning. He is addressed as the “Remover of Obstacles” (“Vignaharta”). His devotees believe that no enterprise will succeed unless he is invoked. The picture of Ganpati is often found on the doors of houses and printed on wedding cards. On the occasion of the Ganpati festival a large number of images are made of all possible sizes, and people buy them to keep in their houses as a divine guest for one and a half, five, seven, or ten days, after which the image is taken out ceremoniously and thrown into the river, sea or well for immersion or “visarjan”.
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