Ganesh Chaturthi : History & Significance

Ganesh Chaturthi

–          Also known as Vinayaka Chaturthu is the Hindu festival of Ganesha, who is believed to bestow his presence on earth for all his devotees in the duration of this festival. It is the birthday of Ganesha who is widely worshipped as the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune

Who is Ganesha?

The son of Shiva and Parvathi (Indian Gods) , Ganesha could be considered as the most endearing form of all Hindu deities. Though His worship forms the most important aspect of one’s daily puja, His birthday, Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated grandly with devotion and delight.

Significance of the name ‘Ganesha’

The term Ganesha stems from the root ‘Gana’ which means the hosts or troops of demigods especially referring to the retinue of Lord Shiva and the term ‘Isha’ means ‘ruler’ or ‘lord’. Hence the term Ganesha means “the Lord of the demigods”

Birth of Ganesha

There are a few legends attributed to the birth or rather the manifestation of Ganesha. However the most popular one is that He was formed by Parvati from the material of Her own body. She then commissioned Ganesha to guard while she had her bath. It is said that the steadfast Ganesha did not allow entry to Lord Shiva Himself and the enraged Lord sent His Ganas or demigods to vanquish Ganesha. Since the Ganas had to embrace defeat, as Ganesha was formed out of Mother Sakhti (Parvati who stands for power), Lord Shiva had to tackle Him directly and in the ensuing battle, severed the head of Ganesha which enraged the Mother.

Lord Shiva then ordered His Ganas to proceed westward and come with the head of anything that they happened to see first. It so happened that it was an elephant and its head was fitted to the body of Parvati’s manifested son.

Shiva then declared Ganesha as the leader of His retinue and henceforth be worshipped first in the beginning of all religious activities for fruitful results to ensue.

History of Ganesh Chaturthi

It is not known when and how Ganesh Chaturthi was first celebrated. But according to the historian Shri Rajwade, the earliest Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations can be traced back to the times of the reigns of dynasties as Satavahana, Rashtrakut and Chalukya.

Historical records reveal that Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations were initiated in Maharashtra by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja, the great Maratha ruler, to promote culture and nationalism. And it had continued ever since. There are also references in history to similar celebrations during Peshwa times. It is believed that Lord Ganapati was the family deity of the Peshwas. After the end of Peshwa rule, Ganesh Chaturthi remained a family affair in Maharashtra from the period of 1818 to 1892.

In 1893, Indian freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak transformed the annual domestic festival into a large, well-organized public event

Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrations

For 10 days, from Bhadrapad Shudh Chaturthi to the Ananta Chaturdashi, Ganesha is worshipped. On the 11th day, the statue is taken through the streets in a procession accompanied with dancing, singing, and fanfare to be immersed in a river or the sea symbolizing a ritual see-off of the Lord in his journey towards his abode in Kailash while taking away with him the misfortunes of his devotees, this is the ritual known as Ganesh Visarjan

When is Ganesh Chaturthi celebrated?

The festival is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Bhaadrapada, starting on the shukla chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon period). The date usually falls between 20 August and 15 September. The festival lasts for 10 or 12 days, ending on Anant Chaturdashi.

In 2011, Ganesh Chaturthi falls on the same day as Eid and is being celebrated on 1st September

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