Ganesh Chaturthi Festival
Ganesh Chaturthi, also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, is a Hindu festival that honors the beloved elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesh and celebrates his arrival to earth from the holy mountain Kailash Parvbat with his mother, goddess Parvati. Lord Ganesh is known as the god of new beginnings and is worshipped for his ability to remove obstacles and bring good fortune.
This festival is widely celebrated in the bustling city of Mumbai and across the state of Maharastra in streets and temples with many rituals and a lot of joy.
The highlight of this festival is the many statues or idols of Ganesh that are built and placed in pandals across different cities and neighborhoods of the state. Local communities compete with each other to build the most impressive Ganesh statue and most beautiful pandal.
In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about Ganesh Chaturthi including when it is, how to celebrated, and where to celebrated.
- Ganesh Chaturthi is a 10-day festival celebrated on the fourth day or Chaturthi of the month of Bhadrapada, the sixth month of the Hindu calendar.
- The festival is widely celebrated in the state of Maharashtra, particularly in Mumbai.
- Some of the foods served during this festival include modaks, a sweet dessert filled with coconut, barfis, a dessert made of milk, and ladoo, a sweet filled with nuts or raisins.
- Pranapratishhtha Puja is a ritual that invokes the presence of Ganesh into the statues of him.
- On the last day, the statues are immersed into a body of water to symbolize Ganesh’s homeward journey to Mount Kailas, the home of his parents, Shiva and Parvati.
The very popular holiday, Ganesh Chaturthi, is a 10-day festival that celebrates the birth of the elephant-headed deity Ganesh, the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi. Ganesh is worshipped as the god of prosperity and wisdom.
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in a very public manner and preparations for the festivities begin months in advance. Locals and business organizations will donate funds to communities to make the Ganesh idols.
When the statues are finished by the artists and designers, they will be placed in a decorated pandal the day before the festival begins.
At the start of the festival, idols of Ganesh are placed on raised platforms in homes or in elaborately decorated outdoor tents. A ritual called pranapratishtha is performed to invoke life in the idols and then followed by shhodashopachara, or the 16 ways of paying tribute.
At the end of the festival, the idols are carried to local rivers in huge processions including drumming, singing, and dancing. They are then immersed in water, symbolizing Ganesh’s homeward journey to Mount Kailas, the home of his parents, Shiva and Parvathi.
When is Ganesh Chaturthi?
The festival takes place in late August or early September. It falls on the fourth day after the new moon in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada, the sixth month of the Hindu calendar. The duration of this festival varies from 1 day to 11 days, depending on the place and tradition.
Upcoming Ganesh Chaturthi dates:
- 2020: August 22nd
- 2021: September 10th
- 2022: August 31st
How is Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrated?
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated for 10 days. During this time, different kinds of rituals are performed with the statues of Ganesh.
There are 5 different traditions that take place during the festival.
1. Installing the statues
Ganesh Chaturthi begins with the installation of huge elaborately built statues of Ganesh in homes and at community podiums.
These podiums have been specially constructed and beautifully decorated. The statues can vary in size, ranging from less than an inch tall to over 70 feet..
To install the statues, funds are collected from members of neighborhood associations or business groups.
2. Pranapratishhtha Puja
Once a statue is installed on its temporary stage, known as a pandal, a ritual is called the Pranapratishhtha Puja is undertaken to invoke the presence of Ganesh into the statue.
The festival starts with offerings of flowers, coconut, jaggery, and sweets that are made to the statues of Ganesh. People pray and sing devotional songs during this ritual. Certain communities also perform musical concerts or plays and even organize free medical checkups and donations to the poor.
Temples devoted Lord Ganesh also organize special rituals called aarti and prayers in the evenings.
Families who have a Ganesh statue in their home will treat him as a much-loved guest with offerings of red hibiscus, karanji (a sweet deep-fried dumpling made semolina), and modaks (a sweet rice-flour dumpling filled with grated coconut and jaggery).
3. Shhodashopachara Puja
Following the Pranapratishhtha Puja, a special ceremony called Shhodashopachara Puja takes place. This is done to pay tribute to the idol by performing 16 types of prayers.
In this ritual, devotees will start by chanting Vedic hymns from religious texts like the Ganesh Upanishad. The idols are anointed with red sandalwood paste and decorated with yellow and red marigolds.
Ganesh is also given offerings of coconut, jaggery, and 21 modaks or sweet dumplings because they are believed to be his favorite food.
These 16 prayers are offered to Lord Ganesh every day during the festival.
On the 10th day of the festival, just before the idols are taken from their pandals and carried towards a nearby body of water, the Uttarpuja ritual is performed. The purpose of this ritual is to bid farewell to Ganesh with deep respect.
During the Uttarpuja ritual, devotees give offerings of food, flowers, and turmeric and light a lamp with frankincense. The purpose of the ritual is for the devotees to receive part of Ganesh and also to tell the god goodbye while making him feel welcome to return.
5. Ganpati Visarjan
After the Uttarpuja is performed, the statues are loaded up into trucks or on to pulley systems and paraded through the streets towards the closest body of water. The parade is accompanied by drummers, singing, dancing, and thousands of devotees.
The statues are then submerged into a body of water during the Ganpati Visarjan ritual. This ritual symbolizes Ganesh’s homeward journey to Mount Kailash and the idea that the god is everywhere and even when formless, that his energy remains.
This ritual also emphasizes the Hindu idea that the universe is in a constant state of change and nothing is permanent.
Where is Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrated?
The festival is widely celebrated across the state of Maharashtra, where it began as a public festival in the city of Pune more than 125 years ago. It is also popularly celebrated in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Odisha.
One of the best places to experience Ganesh Chaturthi is in Mumbai. The central location of the celebrations is at the towering Siddhivinayak Temple, which is dedicated to Lord Ganesh. Huge crowds of devotees will visit the temple to pay their respects to the god during the festival.
Girgaum, a neighborhood that is known as the heart of old Mumbai, is also a must-visit place during the festival especially on the last day of immersions.
Here you can see some of the remarkable idols at Khotachiwadi Heritage Precinct, Fanaswadi, Jitekarwadi, and at Nikadwari Lane which hosts an eco-friendly pandal known as the Girgaumcharaja (King of Girgaum).
There are around 10,000 statues of Lord Ganesh displayed at various locations across the city. Here are some of the best places to visit:
- The Lalbaugcha Raja displays the most famous Ganesh statue in Mumbai and draws an average of 1.5 million people a day. People believe the Ganesh idol here can grant their wishes, so they wait in long lines to make a wish and touch the idol’s feet. This pandal is located in Putlabai Chawl next to Lalbaug Police Station at the Lalbaug market./li>
- The Khetwadicha Ganraj contains the tallest Ganesh idol in Mumbai standing 40 feet. This spectacular idol is decked out in real gold jewelry and adorned with diamonds. This pandal is located at 12th Lane Kehetwadi, Girgaum.
- The Fort Ichhapurti Ganesh Mandal is famous for its ornate palace and lavish temples that were crafted by artisans from Rajasthan. It’s located at Mint Road opposite the GPO in the Fort District.
- The Kamatchawl Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal features religious themes and is one of the oldest Ganesh pandals in Mumbai. It is located opposite Zaoba Ram Mandir, Thakurdwar Naka, Thakurdwar.
Ganesh Chaturthi is also popularly celebrated in Goa. Goans will clean and decorate their houses and visit friends and family during this occasion.
Goa is a heavily Christian state, but the towns Mapusa and Marcela are the two main places in the state where there are many Hindus and Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated.
Hyderabad celebrates Ganesh Chaturthi with great energy and passion. Enormous idols of Ganesh are decorated from head to toe and are placed in huge displays for the public to pay their respects.
One of the tallest idols is installed in Khairatabad and is 60-feet tall weighing 5,600 kilograms.
How Can You Celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi as a Traveler?
Visiting the many different displays or pandals of Ganesh is the highlight of this festival. This activity is called pandal hopping. The idols are installed in homes, at temples, or in community places that are decorated with flowers, garlands, and lights.
Food also plays a major role in this festival. During the holiday, sweet shops line their counters with a delicious variety of modaks (a sweet dessert filled with coconut) barfis (a dessert made of milk) and ladoo (a sweet filled with nuts or raisins).
Travelers can also partake in the rituals and processions held during this festival to gain knowledge and insight into the culture and history of the celebration.
Tips for Experiencing Ganesh Chaturthi
We recommend that you book your tickets and accommodation as early as possible if you are visiting a place such as Mumbai, where Ganesh Chaturthi is a very popular festival. The holiday draws many travelers from around the world so hotels often have less availability.
When pandal hopping, it is important to wear comfortable clothing and footwear as there is lots of walking involved. Temples will be very crowded during this festival and you should be prepared to stand in line for several hours before being able to get in.
Most of the roads will be blocked due to the festival processions which can cause major traffic jams. If you are planning to go somewhere, it’s a good idea to leave as early as possible.
Legends and Stories of Ganesh Chaturthi
The story of Ganesh begins when the goddess Parvati made a son out of turmeric to guard her palace while she bathed. Lord Shiva, the destroyer, came looking for his wife Parvati and was stopped from entering the palace by the boy.
The angry Shiva cut off the boy’s head after a battle between the two. This angered Parvati and to appease her, Shiva promised that he would bring the boy back to life.
Lord Shiva then sent Lord Brahma to look for any creature sleeping with its head pointing north and then to behead it. Lord Brahma returned with the head of an elephant.
Shiva attached the elephant head to the body of the boy and gave him life again. The boy was then called Ganesh.
History of Ganesh Chaturthi
The first recorded celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi occurred between 1630 and 1680. When the British invaded India, the celebrations were forced to be moved to private homes because the British were afraid that large religious celebrations would breed chaos and dissent.
The festival did not become public again until 1892 when a Ganesh idol was displayed publicly in Pune.
In Mumbai, the origin of this festival can be traced back to Shivaji, the Marathi ruler. It was he who initiated the festival as a way to introduce nationalistic feelings and promote cultural harmony within his people.
In 1882, the festival got a new life when Bal Gangadhar Tilak used it as a platform to spread the message of Indian freedom. Under colonial rule, the festival became a symbol of the fight for independence and was celebrated to denounce the British who had banned all public assemblies.
Experience Ganesh Chaturthi with Asia Highlights
Celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi is a great way to experience part of India’s rich religious culture while also trying great food and exploring a beautiful city. If you want to plan your trip to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi but would like some more advice about the celebrations, then Asia Highlights can help. At Asia Highlights, our experts will create the perfect trip for you that is tailor-made to only include what you want to see and experience.