Bhubaneswar, Sept 19: Today the whole nation is celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi which is a 10-day Hindu festival celebrating the birth of Lord Ganesha, the revered deity with an elephant head, symbolizing prosperity and wisdom. This vibrant festival commences on the fourth day (chaturthi) of the Bhadrapada month (typically falling in August-September), which marks the sixth month of the Hindu lunar calendar.
The festivities begin by placing intricately crafted idols of Lord Ganesha on elevated platforms within homes or elaborately adorned outdoor pavilions. The worship rituals commence with the pranapratishtha, a sacred ceremony invoking life into the idols. Following this, the shhodashopachara, which involves paying homage in sixteen different ways, is performed. The air resonates with the chanting of Vedic hymns sourced from religious texts such as the Ganesh Upanishad, while the idols are adorned with red sandalwood paste and adorned with vibrant yellow and red flowers.Offerings of coconut, jaggery, and 21 modaks (sweet dumplings) – believed to be Lord Ganesha's cherished delicacies – are also presented.
As the festival concludes, a grand spectacle unfolds, where the idols are paraded through the streets in massive processions accompanied by the rhythmic beats of drums, devotional songs, and joyful dancing. These idols are eventually immersed in local rivers, symbolizing Lord Ganesha's journey back to Mount Kailas, the celestial abode of his parents, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
Ganesh Chaturthi transformed from a private devotion into a grand public celebration during the time of the Maratha ruler Shivaji in the 17th century. He harnessed the festival to inspire nationalist sentiments among his subjects who were engaged in a struggle against the Mughal Empire. In 1893, during the British colonial era when political gatherings were banned, Indian nationalist leader Bal Gangadhar Tilak revived the festival, further elevating its significance.
Today, Ganesh Chaturthi is not only celebrated with fervor within Hindu communities worldwide but has also gained popularity, particularly in Maharashtra and various parts of western India, as a symbol of cultural unity and devotion to Lord Ganesha.