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Ganesh Chaturthi, also known as Vinayak Chaturthi, is one of the most significant Hindu festivals, celebrated in the western and southern states of the Indian Republic, particularly in the state of Maharashtra. It is a festival that is celebrated over a stretch of 10 continuous days. Preparations for the event begin months before the Hindu calendar’s month of Bhadra (Mid August- Mid September of the Julian calendar). The Shukla Chaturthi or the 4th day of the waxing moon and continues till the Anant Chaturdashi or the 14th day of the same waxing cycle of the moon. According to the Julian calendar the days usually come between the 19th of August and the 20th of September, with minor variations due to specific Hindu astrological changes that govern the cycle of months in the Hindu calendar. This year the festival is slated to begin on the 9th of September 2013.

Why is it so important?

Ostensibly, the occasion marks the birth anniversary of Lord Ganesha. Goddess Parvati is said to have created Lord Ganesha from the turmeric and sandalwood paste she used for bathing and breathed life into him. Empowered by the spirit of Adi-Shakti herself Ganesha stood guard over Parvati’s bathing chambers and engaged in all the major Gods of the Hindu pantheon to a battle and defeated them. Even the mighty Lord Shiva was challenged who wanted access to his wife’s chambers. Ganesha stood firmly by the promise made to Parvati and engaged Lord Shiva in battle only to be beheaded and killed by the latter.
Upon hearing of her son’s death, Goddess Parvati summoned 9 Maha Shatki forms of hers, Including Mahakaali and Gauri. They were charged to destroy all of creation including all the Gods, who despite their considerable powers and knowledge did not shy away from battling a child. Lord Shiva had to personally appease the Goddess, who demanded Ganesha be promptly brought back to life. To further atone for his violent act, Lord Shiva appointed Ganesha, now reanimated with the head of an elephant, as the chief of Ganas or his personal attendants. Ganesha was also blessed by Lord Shiva with the promise of Agradhikaar- meaning the place of first worship in all religious and auspicious occasion. Thenceforth, all pujas or yajnas offered to any God or Goddess would remain fruitless unless Ganesha is propitiated first.

Why is the event important in contemporary times?
The significance of Ganesh Chaturthi is two-fold. The first reason is religious and mythological as explained above. The second reason is much more socio-political in nature. The first Maratha king Shivaji and later, leader of the Indian Independence movement Lokmanya Tilak marked the Ganesh Chaturthi as the time for regional and national integration. Speeches and public gatherings were organised to evoke strong emotions of patriotism in the people, uniting them against the incursions of the Muslim rulers of medieval India and the British colonialism of the 20th century.
Tilak drew upon the tradition of resolved and determined rebellion of Shivaji. With his close knit band of followers Shivaji rose from a family of a minor feudal lord to become the founder of one of the most powerful empires of medieval India. Using strategic guerrilla attacks and heroic all out strikes, Shivaji harassed the far larger and better equipped forces of the Mughals, and AdilShahi Sultanate of mainland India, carving out large swathes of territories making them core parts of the Maratha empire. With outstanding administrative and military innovations he consolidated a strong empire. He built a powerful navy that could hold its own against the Dutch, Portuguese and even the mighty, unparallel Royal Navy of England.
On the religious front Shivaji was a devout Hindu but respected all other faiths and peoples. Overtly Muslim emperors were his sworn enemies but crucial court and army portfolios were entrusted to Muslim men of Marathi origin. Even though some political parties try to give a communal colour to the heritage of Shivaji and British historians tried to underplay his significance, Indian scholars have successfully reclaimed Shivaji from infamy. In fact he now enjoys legendary fame in Maharashtra and neighbouring states. He has permeated the Marathi society is such a way that he is the standard benchmark of greatness mothers speak of to their children during their formative years. Therefore the very utterance of his name evokes strong passions in the hearts of many.

The Direct connection between Lord Ganesha and Shivaji: A lifelong, ardent devotee of his mother Jijabai, Shivaji was much like the ideal son that Lord Ganesha is to Goddess Parvati. Despite repeated imprisonments and failure Shivaji’s spirit was indomitable. He always found his way out of difficult situation by relying on his considerable acumen, just like Lord Ganesha. He dedicated his life’s major success from the age of 16 to his coronation as Chatrapati (Sovereign) Maratha ruler in 1674 CE to his mother.

More importantly Shivaji still stands for the same principles that Lord Ganesha is venerated for- resourcefulness, crafty intelligence, an unbeatable spirit of self reliance, and a constant drive towards material and philosophical success of not just oneself but of all of one’s subject and devotees. United, these traits made Shivaji the ruler of his people’s heart over centuries just as Lord Ganesha has been a beloved God for over Millennia on end.
To know more about Lord Ganesha visit: www.theganeshaexperience.com

Ganesh Chaturthi as a Cultural Event: Due to its dual social-political and religious significance Ganesh Chaturthi has acquired the status of a cross-cultural event. People from all walks of life participate in the festival. Statues of Ganapati is made varying in size between a few inches to over 25 meters. On ten different days the statue is anointed with various Aaratis and Abhishekhas alongside Vedic and Puranic Ganesha Mantras that are musically chanted. On the final day, large processions to the tune of millions literally throng river and sea shores to immerse the idols, chanting

“Ganapati Bappa Morya
Purchya Varshi Laukaria”
Translated: Ganapati our Father/Come again to us next year.
As Swami Sivananda recommends, one must devote oneself heart and sole to the worship of Ganapati during the Ganesh Chaturthi.
[cited from: http://hinduism.about.com/od/festivalsholidays/a/ganeshchaturthi.htm]
Unlike Swami Sivananda’s advice however and closer to the truer spirit of Lord Ganesha and Shivaji’s philosophies one would be helped further by cultivating the spirit of multiculturalism and policies of social inclusion. These are the vital need of our continuously evolving social matrix where narrow and sectarian political interest groups continually try to gain mileage by segregating the various communities along communal and vulgar regionalistic politics, that exhibit blatant xenophobia.
May Lord Ganesha’s spirit guide us through times of difficult trial, towards a life of material and spiritual prosperity!

 

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Stories on Lord GaneshaGanesha is the Lord of wisdom, the Lord of Opulence, the Lord of Prosperity. Ganesha is known by more than one thousand names  (Ganesha Sahastranaam). Lord Ganesha is considered to be the one who fulfills the desires of his devotees. He helped Devtas (Gods) in slaying many demons. There are many stories on Lord Ganesha, which can be read in different Vedas, Purans and Upanishads (holy scriptures).  Some of the stories are as follows:

Why is a snake always tied around Ganesha’s belly?

Ganesha’s birthday is celebrated on the fourth day of the waxing moon in the month of Bhadrapad (Sep-Oct). This day is fondly called Ganesha Chaturthi by his devotees. Milk, naivedyam (eatables), Modaks (sweet delicacies) and other sweet delicacies are offered to the idols of Lord Ganesha . Once,  on Ganesha’s birthday, Goddess Parvati prepared Chhappan Bhog (56 types of food items) for her dearest son. The Chhappan Bhog included Ganesha’s all time favorite Modaks. Ganesha  ate so much that his pot like belly was about to burst. Unable to digest the food, he set off with his Mooshak (mouse, his chariot) to take a stroll. All of a sudden, a snake came  in front of the mouse. In panick, the  mouse stumbled  and  Ganesha fell down. His stomach burst open and all the Modaks that he had stuffed came out on the floor like marbles. Ganesha stuffed the scattered lot of Modaks that were lying on the ground back into his stomach. Infuriated by the action of the snake, Lord Ganesha caught hold of the snake and tied it around his tummy. There was one more spectator to this whole incident apart from these three, and that was Moon. The moon was watching from the sky and was unable to control his laughter. This uncouth and rude behavior of moon displeased and provoked Ganesha, and he pulled out his tusk and threw it towards the moon. Ganesha cursed the moon that whosoever will have a glimpse of him on the night of Ganesha Chaturthi will earn a blasphemy. This way he taught a lesson to the impolite and discourteous moon.

Ganesha and the origin of Cauveri River

In the ancient times, the sages and the priests used to pray to the Gods and Goddesses to help and cure the  mankind of any calamity. Once, the southern part of India had a shortage of water. In order to bring water to the arid areas of the south, Rishi Agasthya (Sage Agasthya) did Yagnas and Homas (prayers) to please Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma blessed Rishi Agasthya and Lord Shiva  gave water in his ‘Kamandalu’ (Brass Pot which used to hold water for rituals of worship). Rishi Agasthya was blessed that wherever he will pour this water, a river will originate which will prove beneficial to all in the southern region. He came down to earth from Brahm Lok (Abode of Lord Brahma) and was searching for the perfect place to pour water for the smooth flow of River. In search of a perfect place, he reached Kodagu Hills (a mountain range in Southern India). In order to search for an ideal place he wanted to hand over the Kamandalu to someone. He found a little boy who was playing alone in that barren land. He called the little boy. The little boy was none other than Lord Ganesha himself, who was in disguise. Rishi asked the little boy to take hold of the vessel carefully and not to spill even a single drop of water. The boy asked him what was the matter, and the Rishi told him the whole story, thinking he is a normal boy. After handing over the Kamandalu to the little boy, the sage went in search of a perfect place for the smooth flow of the river. Ganesha, being a God himself searched the right place and put the Kamandalu there.  A crow came from nowhere and sat on the Kamandalu. Rishi Agasthya returned after some time, saw the scenario and got agitated and infuriated. He shooed away the crow and this made the magical Kamandalu angry, and it spilt the water on that particular spot. The water started gushing forth from the Kamandalu was the holy and sacred river Cauveri, which is now known as Talacauveri.

Jai Shree Ganesh!

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The Trinetra Ganesha Temple in Ranthambore, Rajasthan is one of the oldest and the most famous temples in Rajasthan. The temple is situated in the magnificent fort of Ranthambore. This temple is situated at a distance of 12 kms from Sawai Madhopur.

The story of this temple dates back to the year 1299 when a war broke out between King Hameer and Ala-ud-din Khilji at the Ranthambore fort. The war continued for a long time, and the food stock was running low. King Hameer was an ardent devotee of Lord Ganesha. Amidst all the problems and tensions, he never forgot to worship Lord Ganesha. King Hameer saw Lord Ganesha in his dream and the Lord promised him that all the problems that he was facing would be sorted by the morning. In the morning, an idol of Lord Ganesha as Trinetra (three eyes) was found in one of the fort’s walls. As promised by Lord Ganesha a miracle happened and the war got over.

Ganesha Chaturthi is one festival that is celebrated with pomp and show in this temple.  Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated to commemorate the origin of Lord Ganesha.  It is believed that Ganesha was born on the day of Ganesha Chaturthi. On Ganesha Chaturthi, thousand of devotees come and worship Lord Ganesha. They sing Bhajans (devotional songs), chant verses and participate in religious programs in the temple.

The Ranthambore Fort has got its name from the two adjoining hills near the fort i.e. the Rann and the Thambore hill. The Fort itself is a piece of architectural marvel. The walls are about 7 kms in length and cover an area of about 4 sq. kms. Many old ruins like cenotaphs, old houses and temples still mark the presence of ancient buildings here. The walls are surrounded by colossal stone walls which are strengthened by towers and bastions. The mines that were a common sight at one time in the fort are now ponds which are used for storing water. These ponds act as water reservoirs. The Ganesha temple is situated just at the entrance of the gate of the fort. The main entrance originally had four gates, out of which only one is still standing. There are still many ruins of buildings inside the fort. Hameer’s court, Badal Mahal, Dhula Mahal, Phansi Ghar are some such ruins. The eastern part of the fort is still wild so people prefer to stay at the western part of the fort. There is a small perennial stream that flows in the eastern part of the fort. In the eastern parts, one can see a large number of birds, leopards, langurs, and many wild cats.

A good day to visit the fort (besides Ganesh Chaturthi),  is Wednesday as it is considered as Ganesha’s day. On Wednesday, many people dressed in their best fineries come to visit the shrine. It is said that by worshipping Lord Ganesha in this fort, a family would never be deprived of any amenities in life.

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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.

Jai Gan

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Ganesha Chaturthi, the great festival in the name of Lord Ganesha, also calledVinayak Chaturthi is celebrated by Hindus all over the world as the Lord Ganesha’s birthday. This festival is observed during the Hindu month of Bhadrapada or Simply called Bhadra (mid-August to mid-September) and the most distinguished and most sophisticated of them, particularly in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, lasts for around ten days, finishing on the day ofAnanta Chaturdashi.

ganapati

Preparations of the Grand Celebration

An Idol of Lord Ganesha is made 2-3 months prior to the Ganesh Chaturthi. The size of this idol may vary from small like 3/4th of an inch to over 25 feet tall according the will of the devotee.

On the day of the Ganesha Chaturthi, it is placed on erected platforms in homes or in an elaborated way adorned outdoor stages and tents (pandals) for other devotees to view and pay their homage. The whole society comes to worship Lord Ganesha in attractively done tents and pandals. Then the priest, normally dressed in red silk dhoti and shawl, invokes life into the idol of Lord Ganesha amidst the intonation of mantras. This ritual is known as pranapratishtha, it is followed by shhodashopachara (sixteen ways of paying tribute). Coconut, jaggery, twenty-one ‘modakas’ (rice flour prepared sweets), twenty-one ‘durva‘ (trefoil) blades and red flowers are offered to the idol. The idol is anointed with red oil or rakta chandan (paste of sandal). Vedic hymns from the Rig Veda, Ganapati Atharva Shirsha Upanishad, and Ganesha Stotra from the Narada Purana are chanted by the priests and the devotees throughout the ceremony.

Lord Ganesha is worshipped from Bhadrapad Shudh Chaturthi to the Ananta Chaturdashi, for complete ten days. The idol ganesh-chaturthiof Lord Ganesha is then taken through the streets in a convoy followed by devotees with dancing, singing, to be immersed in a river, pond or the sea representing a ritual to see-off of the Lord in his voyage towards his dwelling in Mountain Kailasha while carrying away with him the bad luck, agony and misfortune of devotees on the eleventh day. The procession keeps shouting Ganapathi Bappa Morya, Purchya Varshi Laukariya (O father Ganesha, come again early next year). Subsequent to the last offering of coconuts, camphor and flowers is made, devotees carry the idol of Ganesha to the river or sea to immerse it, symbolizing that Lord Ganesha is set on the journey back to his abode on Mount Kailasha.

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