Ganesh Chaturthi or “Vinayak Chaturthi” is celebrated on the birthday of Lord Ganesh (Ganesha), the god of wisdom and prosperity on the fourth day of the moons bright fortnight, or the period from new moon in the lunar month of Bhadrapada. The celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi continues for five, seven, or ten days. Some even stretch it to twenty-one days, but then the most popularly celebrated. In the tradition of the right-hand path, the first day is the most important. In the left-hand path tradition, the final day is most important.
Ganesha is the god of wisdom and prosperity and is invoked before the beginning of any auspicious work by the Hindus. It is believed that for the fulfillment of one’s desires, his blessing is absolutely necessary. According to the mythology, he is the son of Shiva and Parvati, brother of Kartikeya – the general of the gods, Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth and Saraswati-the goddess of learning. There are numerous stories in Hindu mythology, associated with the birth of this elephant-headed god, whose vehicle is the Mooshak or rat and who loves Modaks (droplet shaped Indian sweet).
Ganesha — the elephant-deity riding a mouse — has become one of the commonest mnemonics for anything associated with Hinduism. This not only suggests the importance of Ganesha but also shows how popular and pervasive this deity is in the minds of the masses.
The Lord of Success
The son of Shiva and Parvati, Ganesha has an elephantine countenance with a curved trunk and big ears, and a huge pot-bellied body of a human being. He is the Lord of success and destroyer of evils and obstacles. He is also worshipped as the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth. In fact, Ganesha is one of the five prime Hindu deities (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and Durga being the other four) whose idolatry is glorified as the panchayatana puja.
The significance of the Ganesha Form
Ganesha’s head symbolizes the Atman or the soul, which is the ultimate supreme reality of human existence, and his human body signifies Maya or the earthly existence of human beings. The elephant head denotes wisdom and its trunk represents Om, the sound symbol of cosmic reality. In his upper right hand, Ganesha holds a goad, which helps him propel mankind forward on the eternal path and remove obstacles from the way. The noose in Ganesha’s left hand is a gentle implement to capture all difficulties.
The broken tusk that Ganesha holds like a pen in his lower right hand is a symbol of sacrifice, which he broke for writing the Mahabharata. The rosary in his other hand suggests that the pursuit of knowledge should be continuous. The laddoo (sweet) he holds in his trunk indicates that one must discover the sweetness of the Atman. His fan-like ears convey that he is all ears to our petition. The snake that runs round his waist represents energy in all forms. And he is humble enough to ride the lowest of creatures, a mouse.
How Ganesha Got His Head
The story of the birth of this zoomorphic deity, as depicted in the Shiva Purana, goes like this: Once goddess Parvati, while bathing, created a boy out of the dirt of her body and assigned him the task of guarding the entrance to her bathroom. When Shiva, her husband returned, he was surprised to find a stranger denying him access and struck off the boy’s head in rage. Parvati broke down in utter grief and to soothe her, Shiva sent out his squad (gana) to fetch the head of any sleeping being who was facing the north. The company found a sleeping elephant and brought back its severed head, which was then attached to the body of the boy. Shiva restored its life and made him the leader (pati) of his troops. Hence his name ‘Ganapati’. Shiva also bestowed a boon that people would worship him and invoke his name before undertaking any venture.
However, there’s another less popular story of his origin, found in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana: Shiva asked Parvati to observe the punyaka vrata for a year to appease Vishnu in order to have a son. When a son was born to her, all the gods and goddesses assembled to rejoice on its birth. Lord Shani, the son of Surya (Sun-God), was also present but he refused to look at the infant. Perturbed at this behavior, Parvati asked him the reason, and Shani replied that his looking at baby would harm the newborn. However, on Parvati’s insistence when Shani eyed the baby, the child’s head was severed instantly. All the gods started to bemoan, whereupon Vishnu hurried to the bank of river Pushpabhadra and brought back the head of a young elephant, and joined it to the baby’s body, thus reviving it.
Ganesha, the Destroyer of Pride
Ganesha is also the destroyer of vanity, selfishness and pride. He is the personification of material universe in all its various magnificent manifestations. “All Hindus worship Ganesha regardless of their sectarian belief,” says D N Singh in A Study of Hinduism. “He is both the beginning of the religion and the meeting ground for all Hindus.”
The devotees of Ganesha are known as ‘Ganapatyas’, and the festival to celebrate and glorify him is called
Ganesh Chaturthi. Ganesha Chaturthi, the great Ganesha festival, also known as ‘Vinayak Chaturthi’ or ‘Vinayaka Chavithi’ is celebrated by Hindus around the world as the birthday of Lord Ganesha. This year it falls on the 25th of August, and the grandest and most elaborate of them, especially in the western India state of Maharashtra, lasts for 10 days, ending on the day of ‘Ananta Chaturdashi’.
Ganesh Aarti, Shree Ganesh Aarti, Shri Ganesh Aarti
Here is the aarti for God Ganesha:
JAI GANESHA JAI GANESHA JAI GANESHA DEVAA
MAATAA JAAKII PAARVATII, PITAA MAHAADEVAA
EKA DANTA DAYAAVANTA, CAARA BHUJAA DHAARII
MAATHE SINDUURA SOHAI, MUUSE KII SAVAARI
Salutation to you, O Lord Ganesha, born of Parvati, the daughter of the Mountain King, Himalayan, and the great Lord Shiva. O Lord of compassion, you have a single tusk, four arms, a bright mark of vermilion on your forehead and for conveyance the mouse. Glory, glory, all glory…..
ANDHANA KO AANKHA DETA
KORHINA KO KAAYAA
BAANJHANA KO PUTRA DETA
NIRDHANA KO MAAYAA
You bestow vision on the blind, chastened bodies on the leprous, sons of barren women and wealth on the impecunious. Glory, glory, all glory…
PAANA CARHE, PHUULA CARHE
AURA CARHE MEVAA
LADDUANA KO BHOGA LAGE
SAMITA KAREN SEVAA
People offer you betel leaves, blossoms, dry fruits and laddus, while throngs of saints and seers attend on you. Glory, glory, all glory…