Ganesh Chaturthi is the festival that Hindus celebrate in reverence for God Ganesh, who is lovingly called Ganapati Bappa or simply Bappa.Ganesha means the "Gana" Isha" ie lord of people and is considered as "Vighnaharta" (the destroyer of obstacles).It falls in the month of Bhadrapad, according to the Hindu calender.The fourth waxing day, called Shukla Chaturthi , is the day the festival commences.This may be the August or September month according to the Gregorian Calender.It is celebrated for 10 days and concludes on fourteenth day of waxing moon of Bhadrapad, known as" Anant Chaturdashi."
This is celebrated in homes as well as a public festival.Clay images of Ganapati, the elephant headed deity, are installed with certain rituals.Prayers along with flowers and Durva,(a special variety of grass!!!) are offered daily during the morning and evening prayers."Prasad", a sweet preparation, is also offered. Modak, a sweet preparation of fresh coconut and jaggery and rice flour are considered the favourite of Lord Ganesh.
The duration of the festival in homes varies between one and a half to ten days.This depends on the particular family traditions.My Grandmother celebrated it for one and a half day.We would decorate the "Devghar" (a place where the idol is placed) with fruits, fresh flowers, streamers and ornamental decorations.It is a great fun filled family activity.
On the concluding day, the idol is immersed in a water body; a lake, river or sea.Though now for a few years, environmental awareness has prompted these immersions to be carried out in specially put up tanks. Many families immerse the idol at home and reuse the water in their gardens.
On the concluding day my family has a tradition of few special Prasad to be offered to the Deity, like Pancha khadya (a dry sweet preparation of dry fruits) along with simple Dahi pohe (rice flakes and curd) and Watli dal (a savoury dish made from Bengal gram dal).
On a public platform, it is celebrated for 10 days, though these days some mandals (public organisations) celebrate it for 7 days.It was revived by Lokmanya Tilak. Today, it is a very popular festival and is celebrated on a grand scale.Public celebrations include putting up a temporary pandal, decorating it with a particular theme like may be, social awareness as save water or simply a decorative synchronised musical LED pattern etc.This platform is also used to bring about awareness via various skits.Numerous activities are organised like cultural activities (Rangoli competition) or community activities (helping the drought ridden farmers).
On the Anant Chaturdashi, it is with great respect and a heavy heart that we bid adieu to our beloved deity with these sentiments:
"Ganapati Bappa Morya
Pudhchya Warshi Laukar Ya"