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Festivals - Ganesh Chaturthi
 
When: Wednesday, 19th September 2012
Where: Maharashtra

The countdown to the birth of the elephant God has begun.

Although celebrated all across India, Ganesh Chaturthi (or Vinayak Chaturthi, as it's also known) is a really important festival especially in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in the Deccan and South India. This Ganesh festival is about bringing home brilliantly crafted idols of the God, and there he will sit in state till Ganesh Chaturthi on September 19, when he is devotedly immersed in water.

Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrations

Preparations for Ganesh Chaturthi- which marks the birth of the Lord Ganesh- begin up to ten days in advance, and sometimes even months in advance. In virtually every neighbourhood, a brightly decorated and painstakingly crafted Ganesh idol is made, to be illuminated and worshipped for all of the ten days leading up to Ganesh Chaturthi.

Grand pandals or stages are set up and filled with fresh flowers and the idols are dressed up in colourful clothes and glittering ornaments. There is keen competition to see which pandal has been most artistically decorated and sometimes there is even a prize for the best dressed idol!

On the day of the Ganesh festival itself, sweets - especially laddoos and sugary modaks, which are a favourite of the God's -- are distributed (and consumed) and Ganesh temples are crowded with devotees who participate in the worship of the deity.

When all the festivities are over, the idols which have been worshipped over the past ten days are taken out in a grand procession. During this procession the much-adored God is hoisted on willing shoulders, or rides in open trucks and carriages.

Accompanied by fireworks displays, beating drums and the sound of thousands of voices singing devotional songs, the idols are ritually immersed in a nearby sea, lake or river. The immersion ceremony, which is known as the 'visarjan', marks the end of the festivities. The people dance with great enthusiasm and singing rents the air, urging the god to return post haste the next year.

"Ganpati bapa, mouriya! Pudcha varshi, laukar ya!" Hail Lord Ganesha, please return soon next year.

Significance of Ganesh Chaturthi

The fervour with which devotees celebrate the birthday of their most loved deity – Lord Ganesha suggests the significance of Ganesh Chaturthi in their lives. According to the popular belief, Lord Ganesha descends on the earth on Ganesh Chaturthi to stay with his devotees for the course of ten days and clear all their obstacles. In return devotees pamper their beloved Lord Ganesha as an honoured guest and prepare his favourite sweets – modaks.

People also worship Ashtavinayak -- the eight embodiments of Lord Ganesha on Ganesh Chaturthi. It is believed that Ashtavinayak eliminated the negative energy of evil powers from this world and this belief adds to the significance of Ganesh Chaturthi as it is believed that Ganesha always come to eradicate the evil from this planet.

Breaking coconuts is considered auspicious on Ganesh Chaturthi as when it is smashed on the floor it absorbs the negative energy from the atmosphere and thus ensuring your success henceforth in every venture you undertake.


Ganesh Chaturthi Myth

A popular myth associated with Ganesh Chaturthi is that one should refrain from looking at the moon on this day. The fable behind this myth goes like on one of his birthdays, Lord Ganesha after stuffing his belly with modaks, rode on his mouse that stumbled after seeing a snake. This resulted in Ganesha falling down, bursting out his stomach and spilling all the modaks. Ganesha stuffed all the modaks back into his stomach and tied his belly with the snake. Seeing this moon in the sky starting laughing heartily, which annoyed Ganesha and he cursed moon that anyone who will look at it on Ganesh Chaturthi will invite a bad luck. Since then people abstain from looking at the moon on the festival.

Ganesh Chaturthi Beliefs

In Hindu mythology Lord Ganesha is known as the lord of beginnings and as the lord of obstacle remover. Hence all auspicious occasions and religious functions begin by invoking his blessings. According to Hindu mythology anyone who reveres Lord Ganesha before starting any religious occasion or marriage ceremony receives his blessings which help in a successful culmination of the occasion. Lord Ganesha is also associated with commerce and traders till date seek his blessings before starting any new venture.
 
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