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Ganesh (Vinayaka Chaturthi)

Vinayaka Chaturthi
Place: South India
Time: September
Significance: Birthday of Lord Ganesh
Date: 5.9.2017

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, is a ten day long event held annually in South India especially with great fervour in Maharashtra. It falls on the fourth day of the bright fortnight in the month of Bhadhrapada (August -September). 

Ganapati an important deity of the Hindus, has different names and manifestations. He is the God of knowledge, wisdom and the 'remover of Obstacles' ('Vignaharta') hence called 'Vigneswar'. He is invoked at the beginning of every major venture. 

On the occasion of the Ganapati festival, large number of images 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 for one and a half, five, seven, or ten days (Ananda Chaturdashi), after which the images are taken out ceremoniously, carried in a procession through the streets of the towns, especially in Maharashtra and thrown into the river, sea or well for immersion or 'Visarjan'. People chant 'Ganpati bappa Morya, Agle baras to jaldi aa' ('Father Ganpati, Come again soon next year') while immersing. The idol should not be kept after this day, as it is considered inauspicious. The sea front at Mumbai, packed with people, is a spectacular sight. 

Aarthis are performed everyday and kumkum thrown over the seated Ganesh idol when it is kept at home. It is customary to make 'Naivedya' or offerings of  twenty one blades of grass Kewra (pandanus buds) a lotus flower, fruits and sweets, specially twenty one pieces of 'modaks' made of rice flour and filled with jaggery; before him. After the ritual worship it is distributed as 'Prasad' (sacred food) to everyone present.

Although Ganesh worship was performed from time immemorial it was Lok Manya Bal Gangadhar Tilak who was responsible for making Ganesh utsav into a public celebration. 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.

Legend behind the origin of Ganesh:
In Shiv purana it is said that Ganesh was the creation of Goddess Parvati, who breathed life into an image made of clay. She placed the image outside the door while she was bathing and ordered him not to allow anyone to enter. Then her husband Lord Shiva arrived and was refused admission by the doorkeeper.  Shiva became furious and severed the head of the idol. Parvathi was very upset over the incident as she considered the idol as her son (manas putra). To make amends Shiva ordered his servant to go and bring the head of the first living being he would meet. The servant saw an elephant, and he at once cut his head and took it to Shiva. Shiva joined the elephant's head to the body of Parvati's son. Thus Ganapathi came in to being. 

Ganapathi's mount is a mouse and he has a snake tied around his belly. His origin has a philosophical aspect to it. The whole cosmos is compared to the belly of God. Shakti Parvati is the primordial energy. The seven worlds above, seven worlds (lokas) below and the seven oceans are inside the cosmic belly of Ganesha, held together by the cosmic energy kundalini symbolized as the huge snake which Ganesha ties around him. The mouse is nothing but our ego. Ganesha, using the mouse as a vehicle, exemplifies the need to control our ego. One who has controlled the ego is believed to have Ganesha consciousness or God-consciousness.

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