India is a land of numerous religious practices and traditions. Different regions in the country celebrate various festivals with a lot of enthusiasm. Ganesh Chaturthi is one occasion where people from all walks of life join together to make it a joyful event. It is one of the religious functions that is observed throughout the country, though the way it is celebrated may differ. Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations are very colourful and give a chance for everyone to participate actively. It occurs during the Gregorian months of August or September.
Who Is Ganesha?
If we want to understand the importance of Ganesh Chaturthi, we must first know who Ganesha is and why Hindus revere him. One can find the Lord is worshipped in every Indian state. He is given prime importance when starting anything new. Almost nobody in India starts a new venture without doing a Ganesh puja first. Idols of the elephant-headed god can be seen in all temples, irrespective of the reigning deity there. Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations are observed to honour his birth.
Ganesha is Parvati’s son but is not born to her like other children. His mother created him out of the dirt on her body. Parvati brought him to life to prevent anyone from coming inside while she took a bath. As the obedient son, Ganesha denied entry to anyone who came to the door. He gave the same treatment to Lord Shiva, not knowing that he was Parvati’s husband. Shiva is well known for his fiery temper; out of rage, he cut off Ganesha’s head.
When Parvati came to know about the beheading of her favourite son, she was enraged. She threatened to adopt the form of the fiery Kali and destroy the earth and heaven. Shiva pacified her and said he would bring the boy back to life. He sent the devas and told them to bring the head of the first living being they saw. They bring the head of an elephant. Shiva places the head on Ganesha’s shoulder and brings him back to life. His birthday is observed as Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations across the nation.
Rituals In Ganesh Chaturthi
People celebrate the birth of Ganesha with much devotion and enthusiasm because he is the one who destroys obstacles and brings wealth and fortune. The rituals followed during the festival are similar everywhere. Whether performed at a pandal or in the prayer room at home, it is necessary to follow the rituals correctly to earn his favour. But before starting the puja, one must get everything ready. The following items are needed to perform the Ganapati puja as part of the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations.
Ganesh Idol – This is essential for performing puja. The existing idol or photo available at home is not used. A new idol, preferably made of unbaked clay, should be purchased yearly.
Fresh Flowers – Fresh flowers are offered daily to the Lord for the ten days he resides at the house or in a public pandal. The red hibiscus is the most preferred one for Ganesha. One can also use other flowers to do puja and decorate the idol.
Betel Leaves And Nut – These are an integral part of any Hindu puja. These are offered to the Lord, symbolising the submission of our ego to him.
Coconut – This is another item that is offered during puja to any lord. The breaking of coconut signifies the destruction of all obstacles and evil forces.
Kumkum And Sandal Powder – These are applied to the idol’s forehead. While kumkum is believed to open the inner eye, sandal powder cools the body. The sandal also gives out a nice fragrance.
Dhruva Grass – 21 blades of this grass are offered to the Lord. The grass represents renewal, rebirth and fertility, all of which Ganesha stands for.
Lamp And Incense Sticks – No religious function in India occurs without lighting a lamp and burning incense sticks. The lamp signifies the light of knowledge. The pleasant smell of the incense sticks adds sanctity to the function.
Modak – This is a sweet offering that is Ganesha’s favourite. It is generally common to make twenty-one numbers of this sweet during the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. The name and type of sweet may vary in different states.
Other items for the puja include a small wooden platform to place the Ganesha idol. One will also need a cloth to cover the platform. It is also necessary to keep the necessary utensils needed for cooking and performing the puja. All these must be cleaned properly and kept aside for the ceremony.
Rituals Performed At Home for Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations
The rituals performed at home for the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations are similar to those done in public pandals. While pundits may be employed to do the puja at the pandals, most people do the formalities themselves at home. People keep the wooden platform decorated with rangoli before placing a clean cloth on top of it. The idols are available everywhere during this time. People can buy them in various sizes according to their convenience. It is best to buy the ones made with unbaked clay because they dissolve in water readily.
It is customary to decorate homes with festoons and flower garlands during the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. People take a bath and dress in new clothes on the first day of the ceremony. They place the idol on the decorated wooden platform and chant mantras to invoke life into it. It is believed that Ganesha himself resides in your house for these ten days in the form of the clay idol. Devotees bathe the idol in scented water and apply sandal paste and kumkum on its forehead. The idol is adorned with fresh flower garlands.
Once the idol has been placed on the stand and decorated, family members offer aarti. Devotees sing devotional songs on Ganesha and chant his names. They also offer sweets of various types to the Lord. Out of these, Modak is most important as it is his favourite sweet. Family members offer daily prayers to the Lord. After completing the Uttar Puja on the tenth day, the idol is taken for immersion. People perform this either at home or at a nearby water body.
The most important thing is to perform the puja with a pure heart, whether you do it at home or in a public pandal. One must be fully devoted to Ganesha while performing the ceremonies. It is also the time of the year when you ask the Lord to forgive your wrongdoings and remove all obstacles that prevent you from a prosperous and peaceful life. Depending on their financial capacity, people can perform this in a modest or grand style. Ganesha will certainly bless everyone who approaches him with pure intentions.
Suggested Reads :
- When Wisdom Was Born – Ganesh Chaturthi
- Ganesha Chaturthi: A Divine Celebration
- Ganesh Chaturthi and Flowers – The Bond