Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ganesh Chaturthi

Dear Readers,

Let's start by stating the famous Murphy's Law. “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” So, if that is the case, pray what is the way out of all the things that may go wrong and play havoc with our simple lives?

Well, that's why Lord Ganesh is the most beloved of all the Gods. For he is the one who removes obstacles. Who doesn't want a smooth ride and when Ganapati is there to remove all the obstacles, what has one to fear? The fourth day of the month of Bhadrapada as per the Hindu calendar is celebrated as Ganesh Chaturthi, the most colourful festivals of India. It is one of the most popular festivals of India, celebrated all over the country to get the blessings of the Lord who is the destroyer of all obstacles.

The festival falls on the 19th of September 2012.

The festival which is most popular in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu is celebrated for 9 days starting from the fourth day of the Hindu month of Bhadrapada. On the 10th day the idols of Ganesh are immersed in water in a ritual called visarjan or nimajjanam.

The preparation of the idols of Ganapati starts well over 3 months in advance. About a month in advance the stage where the idol is to be installed is prepared. All through the 9 days the festival is celebrated as a community affair and is most popular in Maharashtra, particularly Mumbai where practically every locality has a committee which organises the festival. Large idols of Ganapati are installed in community squares and throughout the 9 days a festive spirit is maintained with devotional songs, competitions for kids and sweets and savouries being distributed.

The festival was not always a public affair and in the earlier days it was celebrated in a homely manner. But, in the year 1894, during the days of British Raj in India, 
Lokmanya Balgangadhar Tilak hit upon the idea of a community or Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav in what is considered as a socio-political masterstroke to unite the Indian masses. 

Very soon the idea spread and offshoots appeared in other neighbouring states too. The concept worked and it seems is still a success, going by the increasing populairty of the festival even today. Maybe it is because of such origins of the community festival, that generally the themes of the festival depict current affairs and social issues.

Each locality vies to celebrate the festival with all imaginable grandeur and the pandals which are constructed for the idol of Ganesh are eloborately beautiful constructions. And on the 10th day, the idols of Ganapati or Vinayak, as the Lord is also known, are led in a grand procession befitting a king, through the streets of the city for immersion in the sea. Throughout the procession the people ask Lord Ganesh to return next year with slogans of “Ganapati Bappa Morya Pudhachya Varshi Laukar Ya”.

Ganesha Photostream
For an interesting photostream of Ganesh festival in Hyderabad visit here. Photo courtesy Flickr user Praveen Verma. 

For a photostream of Ganesh Utsav in Mumbai visit here. Photostream courtesy Flickr user Anupama Kinagi.

One of the most popular of the Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsavs in Mumbai is held in the area of Lalbagh where the Lord also known as the Lalbaugcha-raja is revered with great fanfare and grandeur. You can visit this site to know more about the details of the committee. Also there is an interesting site here where you can see the photos of Lalbaghcha-raja all the way from the begining of the committee in 1934.

Surprisingly, even though the festival is most popular in Mumbai, the tallest of the Ganesh idols is not in Mumbai. The tallest Ganesh idol which averages to about 50ft year after year is installed in Khairatabad area of Hyderabad. You can know more about Khairatabad Ganesh here

So, this Ganesh festival you can go to the city of Mumbai to witness the festival in its full glory or visit the city of Hyderabad where the festival is celebrated on par with the city of Mumbai. If you do then do make it a point to visit the Khairatabad Ganesh which this year too may well be over 50ft.

Ganesh Puja at Home
For those of you who want to celebrate the festival at home,you can find a nice pdf file on the procedure of ganesh puja here. Also, it is customary to recite the story of Lord Ganapati's birth and legends associated with him, especially the story of syamantaka mani, which you can find here.

Hail the Eco-Ganesha
Generally the idols of Ganesh are made out of Plaster of Paris. Over the years, the en-masse immersion of the idols has led to pollution of our water bodies to the detriment of all. Hence, a great emphasis is now laid on using Eco-friendly Ganesh idols for the festival. Here is one such site where details of eco-ganesha idols are given for the residents of Mumbai. So, if you are in Mumbai and want to celebrate with an eco-ganesha then visit the site for more details on how to get yours.

Here is another site which gives details of Eco-ganesha suppliers in various cities. So, go ahead and get you Eco-friendly Ganesh for this year's Ganesh Chaturthi. Believe me, the Lord will like it too.

Here are some links for recipes of sweets and savouries generally prepared during the festival.

Hope you enjoy Ganesh Chaturthi and may the lord destroy all obstacles in your life and give you a smooth ride. Bye for now!!
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