Ganesh Chaturthi, is a grand Hindu religious festival that honors the birth of the Hindu God of Good fortune and prosperity, Lord Ganesha. The festival, also known as Vinayak Chaturthi and Vinayaka Chaviti, is celebrated during the Hindu lunar month of Bhadrapada which starts in the middle of August and terminates mid-September. The most lavish and grand celebration occurs in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, wherein the festivities last for ten days. Honoring the elephant-headed God on Ganesh Chaturthi is done through a set of traditional religious customs and rituals found below.
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Customs and Rituals of Ganesh Chaturthi
- One of the most common rituals on Ganesh Chaturthi is making Lord Ganesha’s Idols. Several months prior to the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi clays idols of Lord Ganesha are constructed by master clay artisans. The artisans ornament and render the Lord of prosperity in various guises to match the occasion’s religious theme. These idols can be as small as ¾ inch to as massive as 25 feet.
- The day before the onset of Ganesh Chaturthi, families cleanse the entire household, specifically the area where idol is to be placed, to purify it.
- When the Ganesha idols are bought, their faces are covered with saffron cloths as they are brought home or to their pandals. During the delivery devotees chant hymns and bang cymbals in honor of the God.
- On the threshold of the first day of the celebration, the idols are placed on their worship platforms in a traditional ritual known as sthapana. Every family member gathers at the glorified altars as the priest invokes life into the idols.
- After sthapana, the accustomed puja takes place at the given time. Devotees of the god quaffs sacred water as they carry out pranayama and do obeisance to Lord Ganesha and all the deities. This is followed with Ganapati Aarti and reverential chants accompanied by the banging of cymbals, bells and clapping.
- During the Ganesh Chaturthi puja, a sweet dumpling known as modak is offered to Lord Ganesha. This offering is supplemented with flowers. After the food offering, the religious events of the first day are considered done. The Prasad, as the food offering is known, is then distributed to the devotees.
- Throughout the duration of Ganesh Chaturthi, the idols are worshipped by offering sweets, flowers, lamps, devotional songs, or even simple prayer recital.
- Ganesh Chaturthi ends on the threshold of the tenth day. The following day, the devotees of Lord Ganesha carry his idol in a grand procession, while chanting Ganapati Bappa Morya, to the nearest body of water. There they will immerse the idol in water signaling the formal end of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations.