One of the most awaited and widely celebrated festivals all over India is the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. Also known as Vinayak Chaturthi or Vinayak Chaviti, this auspicious celebration signifies the arrival of the beloved Lord Ganesha on earth. Lord Ganesha is accompanied by his mother, Goddess Parvati, to earth from their abode on Mount Kailash as per the religious beliefs of Hinduism. The idea of us, insignificant mortals, being blessed by the auspicious presence of Lord Ganesh is a reason good enough to call for extensive celebrations. That is precisely why Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated with great pomp and joy throughout India and abroad.
As per the traditions of Hinduism, Lord Ganesha is always the first God that everyone worships to start any new beginning. Our adorable and good-natured Lord Ganesh always blesses us with good fortune, success and prosperity. Be it a new home, business, vehicle, job, or a new life beginning, Lord Ganesh’s blessings are the ones we seek first. Even a look at his idol is enough to brighten up our day and fills us with positivity. Such powerful is the vigour of our Ganpati Bappa!
Mythology and Religious Importance
Though we worship Lord Ganesha before any other God to ensure a positive beginning, there’s a deeper meaning to this belief. Based on Hindu Mythology, two different legends explain why Lord Ganesha is worshipped first in most Hindu rituals.
As per a popular legend, once Lord Ganesha was asked by his mother Goddess Parvati to guard the entrance of her chambers. No one was supposed to be allowed to enter the chambers as per Goddess Parvati’s instructions. Being the obedient and dutiful son, Little Lord Ganesha performed his duty with the utmost dedication. So, when his father, Lord Shiva, wanted to visit his wife’s chambers, Lord Ganesha prevented him from entering.
Now we are all aware of the wrath of Lord Shiva, so powerful that it can even destroy the entire world. Lord Shiva cut off his own son’s head, angered by what he believed to be his son’s disrespect towards him.
After learning about what happened to her son, Goddess Parvati was infuriated and heartbroken. Unable to bear this extreme loss, she promised to destroy the entire world if she did not get her son back. So it is when Lord Shiva comes to his senses and realises the grave mistake he made.
To rectify the error made, he replaces Lord Ganesha’s head with one of an elephant. Lord Shiva further blessed his son with divine powers, declaring that all pujas will initiate the worship of Lord Ganesha.
The other legend that explains the worshipping of Lord Ganesha is as intriguing as the first one. According to this legend, there was a race between Lord Ganesha and his brother Karthikeya. The prize for this competition was the divine fruit of knowledge and immortality gifted to their parents by Narad Muni. The race was not an ordinary one as it required the winner to go complete three trips around the world.
While his brother Karthikeya immediately got on his peacock and took off on his trip, Lord Ganesha had planned something else. He circled his parents three times because, to him, they were his entire world. Finally, touched by his unconditional love and impressed by his presence of mind, his parents declared him the winner. Lord Ganesha was, thus, blessed with the divine fruit of knowledge and immortality.
No matter which legend is true, these two reasons are why we seek the blessings of Lord Ganesha before starting anything new. With hopes that our generous elephant-God Ganesha will bestow all his blessings and knowledge upon us is what we start our prayers with.
People’s immense faith and love for Lord Ganesha are why they eagerly wait for Ganesh Chaturthi every year. People make extensive preparations to welcome Ganpati Bappa, hoping that Bappa will bring about happiness and prosperity, taking away all their sorrows.
Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra
Although Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated all over India, it holds a special place in the hearts of the Maharashtrians. Durga Puja is to Bengalis, Bihu is to Assamese, Diwali is to North Indians, and Ganesh Chaturthi is to Maharashtrians. Unlike other states where the festivities of Ganesh Chaturthi exist for one day, the festival has a whole magnitude of importance in Maharashtra. It is a ten-day-long celebration in Maharashtra, which even falls short for the natives. People have a hard time bidding goodbye to their Bappa every year. So much so that they start checking for the following year’s dates right after the celebration ends. A bit much for your liking? Well, that certainly isn’t the case for the people of Maharashtra.
Ganesh Chaturthi has been a public celebration in Maharashtra since the era of the great Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha Empire. It was first celebrated on a large scale in Pune. The Peshwa dynasty carried on and even magnified this tradition. They were great devotees of Lord Ganesha.
Although Ganesh Chaturthi lost its significance and popularity during British rule, it received its redemption through Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak. He was the one who restarted the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi just like it was in the old times. In 1892, with the installation of the first public idol of Lord Ganesha, Ganesh Chaturthi officially became a public celebration. This tradition exists till the present day.
Being the most-awaited and most important festival of the year, preparations for Ganesh Chaturthi culture begin months ahead. Organisations in multiple localities start prepping their puja pandals, each having its own uniqueness. There is a puja held exclusively before making the idol itself. It’s called the “Padya Pooja”, which means worshipping the feet of Lord Ganesha. Beautiful decorations, rushes, and excitement are what you get to see in the last few days before the celebrations officially begin.
People clean their homes and praying units where the idols of Lord Ganesha would be placed. They also put on traditional decorations to give a festive look to their homes. People buy new clothes and other gift items for their near and dear ones days ahead of Ganesh Chaturthi. Some also buy home decor accessories to give a new transformation to their homes during this festive time.
Kitchens are full of varieties of delicious food items, especially sweets, both for gifting and enjoying themselves. People also prepare the signature sweet dishes of Modaks and Karanji during Ganesh Chaturthi. Without having these, the celebrations of Ganesh Chaturthi are incomplete. And there is no denying that well-established fact!
All puja-related items are also bought in advance to avoid any last-minute crisis. Then, with everything fully prepped and taken care of, the last thing to do is welcome the beloved Ganpati Bappa into our homes.
Rituals and the Main Celebration
The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi gets a beautiful initiation with the installation of the idol of Lord Ganesha. People bring small clay idols to their homes while the pandals install bigger ones. Priests chant vedic mantras and holy bhajans all day long, creating a pious atmosphere.
Aartis occurs at time intervals as per the ‘muhurats’, allowing people to pray to their beloved Bappa as much as their hearts desire. People offer fruits, sweets, flowers, and what not to please their Ganpati Bappa and secure his blessings.
A crucial part of the rituals is a special ceremony- Prana Pratistha. Primarily performed as an invitation to Lord Ganesha, the prime motive of the Prana Pratistha is to respectfully invite and please Lord Ganesha to visit the earth and bestow his blessings on everyone.
Right after the Prana Pratistha Ceremony follows the extensive 16-stepped Shodashopachara Ritual. This ritual occurs for people to present their offerings to the idol of Ganpati Bappa. Then, as per their capacity, people prepare their offerings for Ganesha, which mainly include coconuts, modaks, and red hibiscus flowers. Other than that, Ganesh vandanas, ear-pleasing drum beats, and religious hymns play round the clock for ten continuous days.
The festive vibe that prevails during Ganesh Chaturthi is inexpressible in words. The laughter, fun, and frolic everywhere are so infectious that even the most non-believing person cannot escape the thrill of it. It’s not merely a religious celebration, but a celebration of life.
During Ganesh Chaturthi, people reconnect with their close friends and families, which is not always easy while leading such busy lives. However, having close ones to celebrate and have a good time with makes people more appreciative of everything they have. After all, it is the little things and moments that matter the most.
Pandals to Visit
As we can see now, Ganesh Chaturthi is quite a big deal in Maharashtra. So, it is only fair that people are aware of the best pandals that deserve a mandatory visit during Ganesh Chaturthi. So, here are the names of the most famous ones.
Claiming the top spot is the favourite and most famous Lalbaugcha Raja pandal. Thronged by more than a million devotees every day during Ganesh Chaturthi, the Lalbaugcha Raja pandal is undoubtedly the most visited. People wait for long hours to catch a glimpse of the idol. A distinctive feature of the idol is that it has patent protection.
What attracts so many visitors every year is the famous fisherman’s legend behind it. It is believed that the fishermen’ community was encountering severe losses seeking help, for which they prayed to Ganpati Bappa. Lord Ganesha answered their prayers and blessed them with success. Since then, this community has been celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi every year. There is a widespread belief that the idol fulfils everyone’s wishes. So definitely add it to your must-visit list.
Ganesh Galli Mumbaicha Raja
Only a few lanes away from Lalbaugcha Raja is another famous pandal by Ganesh Galli Mumbaicha Raja. This Ganpati pandal is popular for its diverse themes every year, which attracts lots of visitors.
Depending on the time, the lines can be concise and sometimes too long. However, being in the same area as Lalbaugcha Raja makes it a convenient option to visit. So do consider visiting the Ganesh Galli Mumbaicha Raja if allowed by the circumstances.
GSB Seva King’s Circle
Popularly known as Mumbai’s Gold Ganesha, you’ll surely regret not visiting this pandal. The idol is the centre of attention because of its breathtaking beauty, maximised by the authentic gold ornaments it wears. Another unique attraction of the GSB pandal is the excellent music of the pandas. Unlike the typical pre-recorded songs, traditional South Indian Music rings at the GSB Seva King’s Circle. One of the unique pandals in Mumbai, visit it as early as possible before its fifth day immersion.
With a reputation for fulfilling the wishes of the devotees, the Andhericha Raja Pandal indeed sees thousands of visitors every year. The theme of the pandal is usually a famous temple in India, which changes every year.
What sets it apart from the others is that the idol stays for an additional period of five days from the usual immersion day. However, one has to dress conservatively from head to toe to enter the pandal. So keep that in mind if you’re planning to visit.
One of the most stunning Ganpati idols in Mumbai, one must not miss out on the opportunity to visit the Khetwadicha Ganraj. The main idol is beautifully decked with real gold and diamond jewellery, leaving the visitors in awe of it. Another fun reason for visiting the Khetwadicha Ganraj pandal is that there are numerous other idols in nearby lanes. So visiting this one is worth it for sure.
Just like all others festivals, Ganesh Chaturthi comes and goes every year. People dread that ever since the festival began, and with heavy hearts, they bid goodbye to their beloved Ganpati Bappa.
Ganpati Visarjan is a whole other affair in Maharashtra. People fill up the streets, beating dhols, singing and dancing while shouting “Ganpati Bappa Mourya”. They chant slogans like “agle baras jaldi aana”, signifying their love for their Lord Ganesha. People are high on emotions on this day, and rightfully so. Their Bappa is going back to Mount Kailash only to come back next year. Along with the sadness of bidding farewell is the happiness of seeing Lord Ganesha the following year.
On the Visarjan (immersion) day, also known as Anant Chaturdashi, the idols of Lord Ganesha are immersed in a river, sea, or other water bodies. It concludes the celebrations of Ganesh Chaturthi.
In conclusion, it is essential to highlight that as much fun as Ganesh Chaturthi festival is, it causes pollution. Therefore, it is in our hands to make better eco-friendly choices to enjoy this auspicious festival while avoiding environmental degradation. Opting for sustainable idol choices and decorations will surely help in cutting down on the population. Hopefully, people will be more responsible in their choices and contribute less to environmental pollution from the next year and forward.