Ganesh Chaturthi : Celebrating Ganesha's birthday

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Ganesh Chaturthi around the world

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 Historical references indicate the time to be in the era when the Marathas ruled India.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.

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