The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated on the fourth day of the month of Bhadra in the Hindu Calendar, which generally occurs in the Gregorian Calendar between the months of August and September. The festival is observed by having large Statues & idols of Lord Ganesha made and installed at houses and several public places, along with daily prayers and hymns, distribution of many sweets such as the ‘Modak’, often considered as the favorite sweet of Ganesha.
At the tenth day after Ganesh Chaturthi, people participate in public processions and carry their Ganpati Idols to immerse it in a nearby water body, a lake or an ocean. It’s a final step which symbolizes Lord’s Ganesha’s return to Mount Kailash where Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva reside.
Who started Ganesh Chaturthi Festival?
The tradition of celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi was started by Maratha ruler Maharaja Chhatrapati Shivaji. Initially, this was only a household occasion and had begun dying out during the time of the British Raj in India. However, through the efforts of Indian freedom Fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the festival and its scale of recognition elevated on a magnificent scale, and today, millions of Indians unite and participate in the processions and celebrations taking place during the period of Ganesh Chaturthi.
Importance of Ganesh Chaturthi
As the ten-day festival of Ganesh Chaturthi honors Lord Ganesha. It is important to know what makes the Elephant-God one of the most revered Gods in the Hindu Pantheon. Lord Ganesha is often considered as the God of Beginnings and the remover of Obstacles. Thus, one can find their way through any obstacle or negative hindrances in their life through following Ganesha, and this is why many events or new businesses are often started with a prayer and offering to Lord Ganesha.
Ganesha is also portrayed as being the God whose objective or Dharma is to test, interrupt and put hindrances in the path of evil-doers, and bring justice to the innocent people who get into trouble even without committing false deeds. It is the creation of impediments for the evil, and the removal of these hindrances for the innocent, that sustains the balance in this Universe.
Symbolism of the Birth and the Vahana of Lord Ganesha
There are many theories and myths regarding the Lord Ganesh Birth Story and the origin of his unique Elephant Head. A common theory states that he was given birth by Goddess Parvati from the dirt of her body, in order to protect herself while bathing in her private abode. This creation was Lord Ganesha, who guarded her until Lord Shiva entered the scene.
Even after being told that Shiva was Parvati’s husband and thus had the right to enter her private dwelling, Ganesha refused to listen to Shiva and continued his efforts to guard Devi Parvati. Enraged with the pesky Ganesha, Lord Shiva cut off his head and killed him while not knowing that he was Parvati’s creation and thus, his own Son.
When Parvati saw this, she was utterly dismayed by the actions of Lord Shiva and was furious. It was at this moment that Shiva decided to bring back Ganesha into life, and found an elephant head to replace the cut-off head of Ganesha. After his resurrection, Shiva subsequently appointed Ganesha as the remover of Obstacles and the God of Wisdom and Knowledge.
A Spiritual perspective of this story depicts Ganesha as the creation from the ‘dirt’ of Goddess Parvati, which symbolizes the value of ignorance and Ego coming out of a pure soul (Parvati) while it cleanses itself. This creation (Ganesha) also has the values of wisdom and knowledge, but the ego (dirt) which surrounds it restricts its potential.
Then this creation (Ganesha) interrupts Lord Shiva, the pure form of, innocence, wisdom, and knowledge without any dirt (ego). Ganesha is filled with knowledge and wisdom, but at the same time, his dirt (ego) creates the value of ignorance, which hinders him from seeing the pure and fearless form of Shiva. Thus Ganesha’s ignorance became an Obstacle for the fearless and wise Shiva, who subsequently cut his head off.
When Parvati, the divine soul, and the source of power for Shiva sees this, she rages and this causes Shiva to bring back life into Ganesha, and revive him with a head of an elephant, symbolizing fearlessness and strength.
Ganesha’s transformation from being an obstacle for Shiva (Wisdom and Knowledge) to a remover of Obstacles symbolizes the fact that the dirt of ego existing in the Human creation can be wiped out if it recognizes and allows wisdom and knowledge to enter its domain.
At the same time, Goddess Parvati’s rage and willingness to see her creation alive symbolizes the value of impartiality exhibited by the pure soul, as from its perspective, everyone is equally able and capable of forgiveness and improvement.