This spectacular festival of Ganesh Chaturthi honors the birth of the beloved Hindu elephant-headed god, Lord Ganesha, popularly worshiped for his ability to remove obstacles and bring good fortune. The festival is celebrated in a very public manner. Local communities compete with each other to put up the biggest and best Ganesha statue and display. Expect very crowded streets, filled with boisterous devotees, and lots of music.
Ganesh Chaturthi Festival Dates
The festival takes place late August or early September, depending on the cycle of the moon. It falls on the fourth day after the new moon in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada. In 2019, Ganesh Chaturthi takes place on Monday, September 2. The festival extends over 11 days with the biggest spectacle happening on the last day called Anant Chaturdasi day, which falls on September 12, 2019.
Where is it Celebrated?
The festival is widely celebrated in the state of Maharashtra, where it originated as a public festival in the city of Pune more than 125 years ago. Although there is debate over who started it there (Sardar Krishnaji Khasgiwale, freedom fighter Bhausaheb Rangari or freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak), its main purpose was to bring people of different classes and castes together to unite them against the British rule. The idol at Dagdusheth temple on Laxmi Road in Pune is very popular and historical.
One of the best places to experience the festival is in Mumbai. It takes place in a special way at the towering Siddhivinayak temple, situated in the central south Mumbai neighborhood of Prabhadevi, which is dedicated to Lord Ganesha. An incalculable number of devotees visit the temple to join in prayers and pay their respects to the God during the festival. In addition, around 10,000 statues of Lord Ganesh are displayed at various locations across the city.
How is it Celebrated?
The festival begins with the installation of huge elaborately crafted statutes of Ganesha in homes and podiums, which have been specially constructed and beautifully decorated. Artisans put months of effort into making the statues. It's forbidden to look at the moon on this first night as legend had it the moon laughed at Lord Ganesha when he fell from his vehicle, the rat. On Ananta Chaturdasi (the last day), the statues are paraded through the streets, accompanied by much singing and dancing, and then immersed in the ocean or other bodies of water.
In Mumbai alone, more than 150,000 statues are immersed each year!
What Rituals are Performed?
Once a statue of Lord Ganesh is installed, a ceremony is undertaken to invoke his holy presence into the statue. This ritual is called the Pranapratishhtha Puja, during which a number of mantras are recited. Following this, a special worship ceremony is performed. Offerings of sweets, flowers, rice, coconut, jaggery, and coins are made to the God. The statue is also anointed with red Chandan powder. Prayers are offered to Lord Ganesha every day during the festival. Temples devoted to Lord Ganesha also organize special events and prayers.
Those who have a Ganesha statue in their house treat and care for him as a much-loved guest.
Why are the Ganesh Statues Immersed in Water at the End of the Festival?
Hindus worship idols, or statues, of their gods because it gives them a visible form to pray to. They also recognize that the universe is in a constant state of change. Form eventually gives away to formlessness. However, the energy still remains. The immersion of the statues in the ocean, or other bodies of water, and subsequent destruction of them serves as a reminder of this belief.