Legend has it that on Ganesh Chaturthi if anyone looks at the moon, misfortune follows that person. More specifically the person who looks at the moon on Lord Ganesha’s birthday is falsely accused of a crime. This legend comes from a tale of Lord Ganesha. On his birthday Ganesha, the little kid, was happily stuffing himself with all the sweets made by his mother. After finishing the sweets made by her he went to the places of gods who had invited him for a meal. They served Ganesha modakam and the choicest of sweets. After eating all of it, Ganesha’s belly grew enormously. He did not show his discomfort to those who had invited him and continued to eat. In the night, Ganesha could not bear it anymore and had to go out. He hopped on to his vehicle, the mouse, and went about. After going a distance, the mouse could not bear the weight of Ganesha and tripped over a snake. The contents of Ganesha’s stomach fell out and Ganesha stuffed everything back in. He picked up the snake and tied it around his stomach so that the contents would not fall out.
Witnessing this scenario, the moon found it extremely hilarious and started to laugh hysterically. Lord Ganesha felt insulted and cursed the moon. After the moon apologised, Ganesha revised the punishment and said on the occasion of his birthday no one should look at the moon. If anyone would, the only way to avert the misfortune will be to tell the tale of the Syamantaka jewel.
For everyone’s benefit, here is the tale that would help you avert the misfortune if you would happen to look at the moon on Ganesh Chaturthi. This tale is found in the Puranas.
Satrajit was given the Syamantaka jewel by Surya (the sun. Satrajit considered the stone to be so precious that he didn’t part with it even when Lord Krishna (incarnation of Vishnu) asked for it. One day Prasana, the brother of Satrajit, went out hunting wearing the jewel. He was killed by a lion and the lion took the jewel as well. Jambavan (of the Ramayana fame) saw the jewel, killed the lion and gave the jewel to his son. When Satrajit falsely accused Krishna of killing his brother for the jewel, Lord Krishna decided to find out the truth. After days of searching, Krishna found Jambavan’s cave and the jewel. Before Krishna could explain why he was there, Jambavan mistook him for an intruder and started to fight him. The battle lasted for 28 days before Krishna defeated Jambavan and made him realize that Krishna was Lord Rama’s rebirth. Jambavan profusely apologised and offered the jewel to Krishna who gave it back to Satrajit. Satrajit also realized his mistake and offered his daughter Satyabhama’s hand in marriage along with the jewel. Lord Krishna did not accept the jewel but married Satyabhama.
It is believed that if anyone recites this story he not only averts the misfortune but is also blessed with luck.
When it is about celebrating the birthday of one of India’s most popular deity, Hindus don’t fall back. Lord Ganesha supposedly descends on earth and blesses his devotees on this day. It was this auspicious occasion when Ganesha was declared superior to all Gods, except Vishnu, Laxmi, Shiva and Parvati. Ganeshotsav (festival of Ganesha) is celebrated in the month of Bhhadrapada that starts on the 4th day of the waxing moon period. The date of Lord Ganesha’s birthday usually falls between 19th August and 20th September. The festival lasts for 10 days.
While this festival is celebrated all over India (and even internationally), it is more elaborate in states such as Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Chhattisgarh. It is unclear when the festival was first celebrated. Historical references indicate the time to be in the era when the Marathas ruled India. During the reign of Shivaji (17th century) the festival was celebrated publicly in Pune Maharashtra. In 1893 Lokmanya Tilak encouraged Ganesh Chaturthi’s celebration on a large scale.
One of the most elaborate celebrations in modern era is at Lalbaug Mumbai, Maharashtra. The idol adorns the best clothing and gold. Devotees from far of places come to catch a glimpse of the idol. Millions of visitors along with celebrities flock in queues to worship the idol specifically in Lalbaug. The donations made on this day run into millions. It is on this day when everyone witnesses the entire Maharashtra on the streets dancing and immersing huge idols of Ganesha in water. The idols take thousands of artisans several weeks to sculpt.
With more and more Indians migrating by the dozen, Ganesh Chaturthi has now become a festival that is celebrated the world over. The festival was first celebrated in UK in the year 2005. The Shobha Yatra (which was the name coined for the procession) started at the Vishwa Hindu temple and ended at Ram temple at King Street with government dignitaries also in attendance. The idol was finally immersed in river Thames. Since then the celebration happens every year with not just Hindus in attendance but also other religious groups.
52% of the population in Mauritius comprises Hindus. It is this sect that brings in Ganesh Chaturthi with fanfare. The celebration started in the year 1896 and the Mauritian government observes this day as a public holiday because of the magnitude of celebration.
The Ganesh Chatturthi celebrations in France are pretty huge in Paris. The Shri Mannika Vinayakar temple in Paris celebrates the day in a majestic manner by not just decorating the idol beautifully but also taking out a procession on chariot. The attendance is not just by people from Indian origins but Sri Lankan and European too.
Different religious organizations take the onus of celebrating the festival in a grand manner in USA. Temples in Warrenville and Illinois witness a huge crowd in this day to see elaborate idols dressed in gold.
The universal celebration of Lord Ganesha’s birthday illustrates the popularity of this deity the world over.
Ganesh Chaturthi is also known as Vinayak Chaturthi. This is celebrated to mark the presence of Lord Ganesha who is believed to bestow his presence on all his devotees for ten long days. The festival starts in the month of Bhadrapad (Sep- Oct), according to the Hindu calendar, starting on chaturthi (the fourth day of the waxing moon). The festival lasts for ten days, ending on Anant Chaudas. The festival starts with the installation of Ganesha idols at homes and at especially erected pandaals (tents). The pandaals are decorated with flowers, lights etc. or these days are theme based. These days themes are either religious themes or on current issues.
The pooja (prayer) starts with the pandit (priest), usually clad in red colored silk dhoti and kurta, chanting mantras (Holy hymns and verses). He holds a pooja thali(a plate that has all the pooja items) in his hands. This ritual of chanting mantras is called as Pranpratishtha or Sthapna (foundation). Then shodashopchara (16 ways of offerings are offered to the Lord Ganesha) follows. Shodashopchar has 21 modakas (sweet dish especially prepared for Ganesha Chaturthi), coconut, jaggery, 21 druvas (trefoil) blades of grass and a paste made of kumkum and sandalwood paste is offered to the deity. Throughout the ceremony hymns from Vedas, Puranas and Upanishads (holy scriptures) are recited by many pandits (priests). Ganpati Stotra is recited every now and then during these ten days. Pandaals usually can see many cultural activities take place side by side. This way Lord Ganesha’s idol is founded at the Pandaals.
The foundation of Ganpati idol at home is totally different. Ganpati is brought by the male member of the family on the tritiya (third day of the waxing moon) at home, wrapped in a red colored cloth. The idol is kept at some clean place for the night and then in the morning is taken out to do the pranpratishtha. The one who had taken the sankalp (vow to do the pranpratishtha) should have a bath early in the morning. Then the idol of Ganesha is brought from the place where it was kept. The person who had taken the vow is the one who will do the pranpratishtha. The idol is taken out from the red cloth. It is kept in a big thali (huge plate) and then the shuddhikaran (purification) of the idol takes place. The idol is first washed wish Panchaamrit (a fluid of five things) i.e. milk, curd, honey, rose water and sugar. First we should wash the feet of the idol, then left and right hands, then the idol’s potbelly, and finally the panchamrit is poured on the idol’s head. Then the idol is placed on a wooden plank in the east direction. Before putting the idol on the wooden plank, we should first put a new and clean cloth on the plank. Now we should offer panchmava to the idol. The panchmava here means 5 different types of fruits, 5 kind of sweets, 5 dry fruits, clothes, paan-supari, and 5 flowers. After offering these, we should put the paste of kumkum and sandal powder on the idol’s head. Now we should offer moli (holy thread) around the idol. Now, the idol is offered naivedyam (food). On this day, we should try to make least 21 types of different food items. If not possible, five will work or even one will work if offered with devotion. A garland is offered to Lord Ganesha. Now clothes are offered to the Lord. A dhoop (incense stick) and deepeak (earthen lamp of either ghee or oil) should be put in front of the idol. A deepak (earthen lamp) of desi ghee should be put on the right side of the idol and make sure this deepak should not be blown out till the time Lord Ganesha is at your place. The stotra(short holy verses) should be recited with the presence of all the family members, relatives and neighbors. Everyone present now should sing the aarti. The prasadam (deity’s blessings in the form of eatables) is to be distributed among all those present. It is believed that someone should be present at home at all times and the idol should not be left alone at home.
This is the ritual with which we can invite Lord Ganesha at our home and can pray to them for the well being of our family and society.
In India and other parts of the world the devotees of Lord Ganesha observe a fast on Ganesh Chaturthi and celebrate it with pomp and show. Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated on the fourth full moon day of Bhadrapad (Sep- Oct) month of Hindu calendar. An idol of Lord Ganesha is brought at home on the day of Ganesh Chaturthi and is immersed in water after 10 days i.e. on Anant Chaudas. Anant Chaudas or Anant Chaturdashi is the last day of the ‘Ganesha Festival’.
This day Lord Ganesha’s idol is taken from home and is immersed in flowing water. We ask God to go to his Heavenly abode from where he had come; so that we can invite him the next year too with equal fervor.
The time of farewell to Ganesha’s idol is a poignant moment in itself. Some rituals have to be followed in order to do the visarjan. There is one specific mantra which is chanted at the time of taking the idol for the visarjan. The prayer is:
Mushikavaahana modaka hastha,
Chaamara karna vilambitha sutra,
Vaamana rupa maheshwara putra,
Vighna vinaayaka paada Namaste.
O Lord Vinayak! You are the remover of all obstacles. You are the son of Lord Shiva, and have a form which is remarkable, with the mouse as your carriage. You hold a laddu (sweet pudding) in your hand and have wide ears and long hanging trunk. I prostrate with sincere devotion at your soft Kamal (lotus) like feet.
Before taking Ganesha for the visarjan ceremony, one should perform the arti (prayer). All the family members should be present at that time. The rituals of the visarjan begin with an uttarang Puja (holy ceremony) which involves offering panchameva (five items), deep (oil lamps), Pushpa (flowers), Dhoop (incense), Gandhi (fragrance) and naivedyam (food) to Ganpati. After offering panchameva to Lord Ganesha, all should gather and perform Aarti. Then some Akshat (raw rice) is sprinkled onto the idol. The idol of Ganesha is then lifted from his seat and is carried to some threshold, where it is turned to face the house and is placed on the floor.
We should ask for his pardon for any mistakes committed by us. If we plan to bring the idol next year for Pooja, we should invite him and ask him to return next year. A spoonful of curd is poured by the women of the house in the idol’s mouth, as it is believed that guests who receive curd and rice are sure to visit again. Then everyone in the family should ask for his blessings. Now the family members should circumambulate the Ganesha idol and proceed for the immersion. The Ganesha idol is now taken to every of the house. This is done to ask Ganesha to bless every part of our house.
Take some Gangaajal (Holy water) and sprinkle it on the person doing the visarjan. All the garlands and the other decorations done on the Ganesha idol should be removed by the person doing the visarjan. They should be collected in some newspaper or a cover, and not to be immersed with the idol. They can be offered at the peepal or bargad (banyan) tree. Now the idol is to be lifted up, and people going to do the visarjan chant the mantra:
‘Ganpati Bappa Moriya, Mangal Murti Moriya’.
Once the idol is lifted it should not be placed in the home. The person holding the idol in hand should move out of the home and should proceed to the immersion point. One should not look back at the house once they proceed to the immersion point. If you have time you can also perform a small Aarti (prayer) at the immersion point. After performing the immersion, do not look back at the idol. You can either take a dip in the river itself or come home take a bath and perform a small Pooja (prayer). This visarjan of Lord Ganesha is performed and devotes wait for a year for him to come and give them the golden opportunity of his service.
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