What is Ganesh Chaturthi ?
Ganesh Chaturthi (also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, Gaṇesha Chaturthi or Vinayaka Cavithi) is the Hindu festival celebrated in honour of the elephant-headed god, Ganesha. This is a very auspicious day celebrated to pray to the god so that every new activity that is started is successfully completed without any obstacles (Vighna = Obstacle).
What is Chaturthi ?
Chaturthi (Hindi चतुर्थी) means “fourth day” or “fourth state”. Celebrations are traditionally held on the fourth day of the first fortnight (Shukla Chaturthi) in the month of Bhaadrapada in the Hindu calendar, usually August or September in the Gregorian calendar. Badrapad corresponds to Virgo (simha/avani-tamil) in solar calendar. The festival generally lasts ten days, ending on the fourteenth day of the fortnight (Anant Chaturdashi).
The festival is celebrated by families at home, by people at their places of work and in public. The public celebration involves installing clay images of Ganesha in public pandals (temporary shrines) and group worship. At home, an appropriately-sized clay image is installed and worshipped with family and friends. At the end of the festival, the idols are immersed in a large body of water such as the sea, river or a lake. The clay idols disintegrate over time in the water.
It is celebrated throughout India, especially in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. There is a grand celebration in the state of Maharashtra by traditional instrument called dhol and tasha. It is also celebrated in the other parts of India such as Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala,Goa, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and other parts of western and southern India. Abroad, Ganesh Chaturthi is observed in the Terai region of Nepal and by the Hindu diaspora in the United States, Canada and Mauritius.
At homes in Maharashtra, families install small clay statues for worship during the festival. The idol is worshiped in the morning and evening with offerings of flowers, durva(strands of young grass), karanji and modaks. The worship ends with the singing of an aarti in honour of Ganesha, other gods and saints. In Maharashtra the Marathi aarti “Sukhakarta Dukhaharta”, composed by Samarth Ramdas in the 17th century, is sung. Family traditions differ about when to end the celebration. Domestic celebrations end after 1, 1 1⁄2, 3, 5, 7 or 11 days, when the idol is brought to a body of water (such as a lake, river or the sea) for immersion.
Due to environmental concerns, a number of families now avoid bodies of water and let the clay statue disintegrate in a barrel of water at home. After a few days, the clay is spread in the home garden. In some cities a public, eco-friendly process is used for the immersion. In Maharashtra, Ganeshotsav also incorporates other festivals, namely Hartalika and the Gauri festival, the former is observed with a fast by women on the day before Ganesh Chaturthi whilst the latter by the installation of idols of Gauris.
Public celebrations of the festival are popular, and are organised by local youth groups, neighborhood associations or groups of tradespeople. Funds for the public festival are collected from members of the association arranging the celebration, local residents and businesses. The Ganesha idols and accompanying statues are installed in temporary shelters, known as mandaps or pandals. The festival features cultural activities such as singing, theater and orchestral performances and community activities such as free medical checkups, blood-donation sites and donations to the poor. Ganesh Chaturthi, in addition to its religious aspects, is an important economic activity in Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai. Many artists, industries, and businesses earn a significant amount of their living from the festival, which is a stage for budding artists. Members of other religions also participate in the celebration.
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in the UK by the migrant Hindu population and the large number of Indians living there. The Hindu Culture and Heritage Society, a Southall-based organisation, celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi for the first time in London in 2005 at the Vishwa Hindu Temple; the idol was immersed in the River Thames at Putney Pier. Another celebration, organised by a Gujarati group, has been celebrated in Southend-on-Sea and attracted an estimated 18,000 devotees. Annual celebrations are also held on the River Mersey in Liverpool.
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