Understanding the legend

Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated in the month of August or September depending on the cycle of the moon. This festival has different names in different places across our country like Vinayaka Chaturthi, Chauthi, Chavath or Chaturdashi. As it is the birthday of Lord Ganesha it is celebrated with great joy for 11 days, the last day being Anantha Chaturdashi. On this day, specially prepared food is offered to Ganesha at least three times in the course of the day. While some people celebrate it for just one day, for others, the celebrations last for three days to five days.

According to Hindu mythology while Lord Shiva was away at a war, his wife Parvathi wanted to bathe but was worried about leaving the house unguarded. She created a son Ganesha from the sandalwood paste which she was going to use while bathing and she gave life to her creation. She asked him to guard the house for her and not allow anyone inside while she was away. When Shiva returned Ganesha did not allow him to enter the house, angered by this Shiva severed his head. This in turn enraged Parvathi who threatened to destroy heaven and earth. In order to pacify her Shiva replaced Ganeshas severed head with that of an elephant and restored its life.

He also declared that everyone who worships Ganesha before any other God will be blessed and that is why Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated first before any other Hindu festival. Ganesha means gana or Shiva’s hosts and esha means lord, hence the full meaning is ‘Lord of Shiva’s hosts’.  

On the day of the festival after the pooja is conducted and food is offered, it is believed that the Lord comes down to earth to offer his blessings to all his devotees. He is the God of good fortune, wisdom and prosperity. The day begins by placing the statue of Ganesha in the house and then the Pranapratishtha Pooja is performed where special mantras are recited. After the pooja the sweets, flowers, rice, coconut, jaggery, fruits and other dishes prepared for Ganesha are placed before him. The idol of Lord Ganesha is paraded around streets and then finally immersed in water after a final round of prayers and offerings. The theory behind the immersion is that the universe always keeps changing and nothing stands still. A fixed form gives way to formlessness. The immersion is a reminder of this belief.

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