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Festivals - Ganesh Chaturthi
 

Many many centuries ago, it has been said that during a war between the Gods and the Demons, Lord Shiva was away for a long time. His wife, Goddess Parvati, afraid of being alone for an extended period used her divine powers and created a son, Ganesh, and gave him the responsibility of protecting the house. When Lord Shiva and his army, returned victorious to his home, Parvati was in her bath, and Ganesh had been strictly instructed not to allow anyone in. Angered by Ganesh's refusal to allow him into the house, Lord Shiva and his army chopped off the boy's head. When Parvati came out of her bath, she was shocked and grieved to see her son dead.

Lord Shiva, to pacify, her proclaimed that the head of Ganesh would be replaced by that of the first creature that came up the hill. The first visitor to the hill was an elephant and his head was promptly cut off and placed on that of the boy Ganesh. His life was restored by Lord Shiva who also bestowed upon Ganesh the powers of a God and blessed him such that henceforth no activity will begin without invoking his name and blessings.

Since then, it is said, no new venture - the inauguration of a company, the opening of a shop, the foundation of a building, entering a new home - is deemed complete by Hindus without performing a Ganesh puja. He is always honored first in most worship services and rituals.  He is known as the god who removes all obstacles, one who gives you success in your ventures.     

He has 108 names some of them being

Balganapathi - The beloved child Ganapati
Ekdanta - The one with a single tusk
Gajanana - The one with an elephant face
Lambodara - The one with a huge belly
MahaGanpati - The omnipotent and all powerful
Mangalmoorti - The auspicious
Muktidaya - The giver of eternal peace
Pitambar - One who is adorned with yellow clothes
Siddhivinayak - The bestower of success
Vakratunda - The Lord with the twisted trunk
Vighnahara - The destroyer of evil
Vighnaharta - The destroyer of obstacles
Vinayak - Lord of All
Ganapati Sholka                           
Vakratunda mahakaya suryakoti samaprabha
Nirvighne kuru me deva sarva karaye shu sarvada

Celebrations at homes                  
How to celebrate Ganesh Chturthi at home ?
At individual homes, after the Ganesh idol is bought, it is
ceremoniously installed by the head of the house hold in the "home mandir" or "Pooja Ghaar" - temple. The home temple is cleaned, and "rangoli" decorations are done. The various rituals that take place are the ceremonious decoration of the idol with ornaments, flowers and lights, chanting of the sanskrit verses, and the offering of a special prasad. A twenty-one "Modak" prasad - a type of Indian sweet -is offered during this pooja.

"Puja" and "aarti" are performed every morning and evening using usually red flowers like the red hibiscus, or any other red flower, rice, supari - betel nuts and leaves, haldi- turmeric, kumkum - red powder, milk, incense and oil lamps. Most people rush home from work to take part in the festivities and gather around the brightly-lit Ganesha. Everyone joins in to sing the "bhajans" - hymns. Everyone present is given a few flowers and rice in their hands. These are later showered on Ganesh. The most common offerings of prasad to Ganapati are modaks, pedhas and coconut. The prasad can be bought from the local sweet stores all over town. The blessed offerings or prasad are then distributed amongst the devotees.

According to individual family traditions, Ganapati celebrations are held for one and a half, five, seven, or ten days. The idols are immersed into the river, sea or wells on the second, fifth, seventh or eleventh day of the festival on - Ananta Chaturdashi very ceremoniously. From small family processions to huge community processions on foot accompany the idol of Ganesh that has been worshipped, to the immersion site chanting loudly "GANPATI BAPPA MORYA, PHOOD CHYA VARSHI LUVKAAR YAA" or "Oh My Lord Ganpati, come again soon next year". Along with the big immersion ceremony, there are music performances on beautifully decorated stages called pandaals, cart races and wrestling matches. It is also forbidden to look at the moon on that day as the moon had laughed at Ganesha when he fell from his vehicle, the rat.

Foods made during this Festival        

1. Ukadee Che Modak
2. Kheer
3. Besan Ke Ladoo
4. Anarse
Lord Ganesh's favorite sweet is the Ukadee che modak. These are like sweet steamed rice (flour) dumplings. It is customary to make these during this festival. They are very delicate and tender. The shape above is called a modak shape. Many pedhas too are shaped like this and sold at this time in many Indian sweet stores. It does take practice to make this delicate dessert. The inside is filled with a coconut and jaggery filling. 
Some of the other Indian sweets made at this festival are Rice Kheer, Besan ke ladoo and Boondi ladoo.      
Fasting during this festival is not very common practice. The few who do keep a fast are allowed to eat various sweets like "til ladoo" - a round Indian sweet made of sesame seeds and jagery, "rewari" or sweets made of jaggery and nuts, along with tea and coffee.

 
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