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25. 09. 2017
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GANESH CHATURTHI AND OTHER GANESH FESTIVALS

"Ganapati bappa morya Mangal moorti morya I" Such are the slogans that fill the air. The meaning of this slogan is: "Father Ganapati, come again Auspicious one, come again." And amidst the clash of gongs and cymbals, a crowd maddened in the religious fervour chants such slogans. This is the common spectacle in the streets of Bombay and other towns of Maharashtra amidst the Bhadrapad month (Aug-Sept.) after the Fourth Day of the bright half.

Although the Fourth Day of the bright half of every lunar month is believed to be the day of Lord Ganesh, the Magh (Jan-Feb.) Bhadrapad (Aug-Sept.) and the full moon day of Vaishaakh are held to be the special days for Lord Ganesh's worship.

Lord Ganesh is Mangalmoorti, Vighneshwar and the Ganapati— that is, the Lord is the personification of all that is auspicious, the Lord of all the troubles and the head of all the 'Ganas'. All these days, if observed with full ritual worship and full faith definitely ensure welfare of the devotees and grant their desires—so declare the Shastras or the scriptures. The special days dedicated to Lord Ganesh have their special names and significance, which have been discussed below :

The Varad Chaturthi Day :



According to the Ganesh Purana, this vow or the fast should begin from the Fourth Day of the bright half of the lunar month Shravan (about mid July to mid Aug.). After clearing oneself by the daily ablutions, the devotee should massage his entire body with the paste made from the til (sesame) and Aanwala powder mixed in a little of water. The process is to rub this paste gently on one's entire body and then allow it to become a little dry. Then peel off the flakes of filth by rubbing it gently by your hand. Having rubbed off the entire paste this way, the devotee should take bath with pure water while concentrating all the time on the auspicious visage of Lord (ianesh. Ther select a clean pious and private spot in your house and erect a beautiful canopy (Mandap).

Place a bronze pitcher in the middle ifter covering it with two clean pieces of red cloth. Then draw a iymbol of lotus flower on the body of the pitcher. The flower must be shown having eight petals. The drawing should be made by the paste of saffron or sandalwood. Now keep a wooden pedestal (chauk ) there and place an idol of Lord Ganesh made of clay or silver.

The bronze-pitcher should be placed upon the ground already littered with the grains of some cereals. Now place a Kushasan or a red carpet before the pitcher and sit on it, concentrating on all the names of Lord Ganesh and chanting thern with full devotion. The devotee should say :

Om Ganeshaya namah Om Dhundhirajaya namah Om Herambaya namah Om Vakratundaya namah Om Shoorpakaranaya namah Om Vighneshaya namah Om Gajanananay namah Om Lambodaraya namah Om Ekdantayah namah Om Vinayakayah namah Om Kapilaya namah Om Ashapoorkaya namah Om Dhoomraketave namah Om Mohavarjitaya namah Om Sarvananda-vaskarkaya namah. The pooja is offered with 'Doorba' (twig of grass) and sandal wood paste by reciting his all names.

The use of Tulsi or basil leaves during Ganesh-worship is prohibited. One should always remember that Lord Ganesh's favourite no. is Twenty One (21). Hence offering should be made by 21 things having predominantly white colour or green colour. These offering could be made by twenty one variety of flowers, fruits or other pious things. The flowers should be offered to the idols with its flowery head up and not upside down. The sindoor or vermilion powder, wetted with a drop of water and having little rice grain, should be applied on the idol's head, forehead, neck, the heart region and while chanting loudly "Om Gananathaya namah"; a mark of the verimilion should be made between the eyas of the idol, just above the nose.

The priest (in case the devotee himself cannot perform these functions devotedly) and the devotee should contemplate should contemplate on the god who has only one tusk, whose ears are wide like a winnowing basket, who has 'naga' (snake) worn like the sacred thread, and who weilds in his hands a snare and a goad or hamulus.

On this day, the devotee should keep fast and listen to the glorious doings of the Lord by an able and learned person. On this day, observation of total continence, lying on the ground and eating only fruits, 'pedas' (a sweet-meat made of milk) and milk are some of the commands ordained by the scriptures. This fast and vow should be continued till the Fourth Day of Bhadrapad Shukla (bright half). On the Fifth day after the ritual worship, the idol or 'Yantra' should be immersed in the pious waters. On the day of the 'Immersion', the young maidens and brahmans should be fed. This vow is especially recom-mended for anyone desiring to have his some cherished wish fulfilled.

Ganesh-Chaturthi:



The fourth day of the bright half of every lunar month is called Siddhi Vinayaki Chatur-Chaturthi is known as Mahasiddhi Vinayaki Chaturthi. When this fourth day falls on Tuesday or Saturday it is termed as Varad Chaturthi or Shivaa Chaturthi and its importance gets enhanced. On this auspicious day, a beautiful idol of Lord Ganesh should be made of clay or some metal like silver. Now this idol should be installed on a high pedestal with its face facing east-west or north.

Having annointed the idol with sandalwood or saffron paste and invoking the Lord for the 'Pran-pratishtha' (consecration), offerings with 21 objects should be kept ready, which should include Patri (leaves), Kewra (pamdames), Shamee (a kind of tree leaves), white flowers (lily), Durba (grass twigs), red sandalwood, sindoor (red vermilion powder), panchamrita (a potion made from mixing mi Ik, curd, honey, sugar and water) and the leaves of Tulsi or basil rir.

One must remember that basil leaves or Tulsidal are permitted in (he Lord's worship only on this day, and not on other days. Now, niter seating yourself on the Kushasan (a small mattress made by the weed called Kusha), you should invoke the Lord and complete the worship as mentioned earlier. Then perform the Mahabhishek (Grand Anointing Ceremony) by Panchamrita etc., and sing the 'Aarti' of (lie Lord with a lighted lamp waving in your hand before the Lord's idol. Then the oblation of Durba, flowers, etc. should be offered to (lie Lord. After this, religiously move around the lord seven times in anti-clockwise direction and lie with hand and feet fully stretched on I he ground with face facing the ground to salute the Lord. This sort of special salutation is called 'Sashtang Namaskar' .

Then 21 Laddoos should be offered as the Lord's symbolic food or the 'Prasadam' which should be distributed to as many devotees as possible. It is said in scriptures that 'Prasadam' should be distributed to the greatest number of persons possible with each getting as little of the share as to have it totally absorbed or digested by the eater's body and there should not be any refuse left out of it after digestion.

Having made the offering, the following 'Mantra' (incantation) should be recited :



Ganadhipa namasteastu Umaputraghanashana Ekdantabhaktreti tatha mooshak vahana Vinayakesha putreti sarva siddhi pradayaka Kumar gurve tubhyam poojaneeyah prayatnatah [I bow to the head of Ganas, the Destroyer of all sin, the son of Uma (Parvati), who has One Tusk and Elephant-Face and the mouse as His vehicle. O Supreme Leader, who grants the boon of son and every desire, whose elder brother is Kumar (Kartikeya)— this way I endeavour to worship thee !) The proper time for the performance is mid-day, as ordained by the Celestial Priest Brahaspati (quoted in 'Kalanirnaya').

Depending upon one's capacity one should keep fast for two to twenty one days observing the strict vows already explained and then after the ritual worship, the idol of the Lord should be immersed in the holy waters of a tank, river or sea.

The Tales Related to the Ganesh Chaturthi



(a) On this pious day viewing the moon is prohibited. In this connection there is a legend in the Ganesh Purana. it is said that once the Lord was going upon his vehicle, the mouse, when he fell down. No one except moon could see him fall. Seeing the heavy-bodied god falling from his tiny vehicle, the moon let out a loud guffaw, to the great annoyance and indignation of the Lord. Enraged the Lord cursed the moon that henceforth no one would watch the moon.

The moon, realising his committing a sacrilege-like offence, besought the Lord to pardon him. When the luminary-god repeatedly apologised the Lord, he modified his curse and limited it to only the Chaturthi day. He said : "If one views you on this day he shall be held responsible for an offence not committed by him : That is, one may be falsely held responsible for an offence.

The Puranas and the Mahabharat record that Lord Krishna was falsely held responsible for stealing the 'Syamantak Mani' (A very rare gem) when he had seen the moon on this day.

Then Lord Krishna had offered. a method of redemption by saying that one should chant the following shloka :

Sinha Prasenamvadheeta Sinho Jambavata hatah I Sukumarak ma rodeestva hyeshah Syamantakah II Chanting the Shloka the person who sees the moon on the ('haturthi Day should drink water and hear the story about this gem Syamantak.

(b) On the Ganesh Chaturthi day, all the ladies desirous of the welfare of their sons and family especially worship Lord Ganesh's symbol, the Elephant. The mother of the Pandavas, Kunti, also wanted to worship an elephant and she told her sons, who were still living jointly with the Kauravas in the palace of Hastinapur, to fetch an elephant for her. Similarly Gandhari, the mother of the 100 Kauravs, asked her sons to get ail elephant for her. The Kauravas, being more in numbers and hence more resourceful, got the best elephant available in the area.

Meanwhile, the Pandavas also went in search of a robust elephant but couldn't get the desired one. Since the time of worship was drawing close, Kunti was worried. Then Arjun, her third son and the most renowned archer, offered a solution.

He said : "Don't worry, mother ? I am sending a message to the chief of gods, Indra, to send his favourite elephant, Airavat, so that you may worship him." Now, this elephant, Airavat is supposed to be the best among the elephants, as this elephant was also one of the gifts that the Ocean gave when it was churned by the gods and the demons. Kunti was delighted to hear her son's audacious offer. "But, dear son, how will that heavy elephant land on this earth from heaven ?" she asked worriedly. "Don't worry, Mother !" replied Arjun confidently : "I will see to it that Airavat comes here to make you worship him on this pious day."

And then Arjun wrote the message on a piece of paper and fixing that piece to the head of his arrow, he pulled at his bow and sent the arrow heavenwards. Indra, whose psychic son was Arjun, readily agreed to the proposal but sent the message back saying : "There is no ladder by which my vehicle, Airavat, could come down from the heaven to oblige your mother. Arrange a passage."

Getting this message, Arjun saw the elephant peeping through a cloud crack and ready to come down. So with his expertise in archery, he began to form a ladder made by the arrows he was shooting. But the elephant was heavy and his massive step used to crush hundreds of arrows. But Arjun would fill the gap by more arrows than that elephant could break. At last he succeeded in making the huge elephant reach ground. Then Kunti, delighted, happily worshipped that grand symbol of Ganesh. All these tales indicate the great significance attached to the worship of Lord Ganesh on this day, the Fourth Day of the lunar (bright) month Bhadrapada. This day, the Puranas say that Lord Ganesh was born and when Lord Shiv had accepted Lord Ganesh as his son, he celebrated his son's birthday on this day at Kailash Mount, the abode of Lord Shiv. It was on this very day that Lord Ganesh had killed a demon called Sindoor.

Hence this day is specially sacred to the devotees of Lord Ganesh. Ganesh Chaturthi is the avowed observance (vrata) of Siddhi-Vinayak. Although on this day the worship lasts for the entire day, the essential worship lasts for one and half hour during each of four or seven days or till even the Anant Chaturdashi (i.e. for 10 days). Thereafter, the image is immersed in the river, sea or tank whichever is nearer. On the day of "Visarjan" (immersion), the image or idol of Lord Ganesh is carried in a procession of the devotees through the streets of the town (especially in Maharashtra) crowded by enthusiastic watchers.

(c) The Celebrations in Maharashtra : This is the special I unction day or the grandest festival of Maharashtra. Almost each locality of every town and village has its own idol of Lord Ganesh specially made for the occasion. Although there are thousands of c entres that make such idols, those built by the craftsmen of a small (own Pen are rated higher. A Ganapati is brought and installed on a colourful painted plank. The grown-ups carry the plank themselves; (he children strike the cymbals and beat the gongs yelling lustily : "Ganapati bappa morya..." The Ganapati is brought home amidst great fanfare. Since the favourite idols are generally made of clay, special care is taken to carry the idol intact. No one will take the risk of being jostled by the crowd and dropping the idol, for a damaged Ganapati is considered very inauspicious.

Ganapati idols are installed in homes on this day and worshipped. Though they vary in size they are similar in appearance. All of them have the deity seated. In front of God Ganapati is put a big 'thaal' (plate) containing modaks made of rice-flour and filled with jaggery, grated coconut, cardamom seeds and dried fruit. How long the Ganapati idol is kept at home depends on family tradition. It may be thirty six hours in some homes, in others it varies from five, seven to nine days, till Anant Chaturdashi.

When the idol is brought home it is installed in a specially decorated place. Children decorate their Ganapatis with colourful papers and string of coloured lights. During the time Ganapati is kept at home, prayers are offered every morning and evening and Arti performed everyday. In some homes priests are asked to conduct the worship; in others, members of the family do it themselves. It is customary to make offerings of twenty-one blades of grass, kewra (pandanus buds), a lotus flower and twenty-one modaks as 'prasadam'.

Besides the Ganapatis installed in homes, most localities also have their own community Ganapatis. These images are usually very large, sometimes almost twenty feet high. Since he has different manifestations in the Puranas, the Mahabharat and the Ramayana, he is represented in his multifarious activities. He may be depicted as Krishna, standing on the head of the snake 'Kaalia' or slaying the demon 'Keshi'.

There is a belief that the kind and benevolent aspect of Ganapati is represented in every deity of the Hindu Pantheon.
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