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Ganesh Chaturthi

Ganesh Chaturthi (Vinayaka Chaturthi, Gaṇēśa Caturthī or Vināyaka Caviti) is the Hindu festival celebrated in honour of the elephant-headed god Ganesha. Celebrations are traditionally held on the 4th day of the first fortnight (Shukla Chaturthi) in the month of Bhaadrapada, according to the Hindu calendar. This usually falls between August and September months of the Gregorian Calendar. Festivities usually finish in 10 days, on the fourteen day of the same fortnight (Anant Chaturdashi).

The festival is celebrated both publicly and privately at home. The modern day version of public celebrations involves installing clay images of Ganesha in public pandals (temporary shrines) and worshipped together for ten days. The private celebration involves installing an appropriate sized clay image at home and worshipping with family and friends. In both cases, at the end of the festival the idols are immersed in a body of water such as a lake or a pond.

The festival is generally celebrated all over India. However, celebrations also occur at Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Goa,[1] Odisha and in other parts of Western India[2] and Southern India.[3] Outside India, it is celebrated widely in Terai region of Nepal and by the Hindu diaspora in the United States, Canada, Mauritius,[4] and other places.

The festival starts by selecting and installing a clay murti (idol). At home, families will create a small, clean corner decorated with flowers and other colourful items prior to installing the idol. For public celebrations, preparations will commence weeks in advance and will involve erecting temporary structures such as mandapas and pandals. These are funded by monetary contributions from local residents and commercial establishments. Once the idol is installed, people will decorate the idol and the place of installation in various themes using flowers and other decorative materials.

In preparation for the festival, skilled artisans create artistic clay models of Lord Ganesha with the aim of selling them. The clay idols tend to range in size from 3⁄4 inch (1.9 cm) for domestic celebration to over 70 ft (21 m) for large well funded community celebrations.[5]

As part of the consecration ceremony, a priest will perform the Prana Pratishtha ritual with a symbolic aim of inviting Ganesha to inhabit the idol. This is followed by the 16 step ritual named Shodashopachara[6] (Sanskrit: Shodash = "16", Upachara = "process") during which various offerings like Coconut, jaggery, modaks, durva (trefoil) blades of grass and red flowers are offered to the murti.

Throughout the ceremony, Vedic hymns from the Rig Veda, the Ganapati Atharvashirsa, Upanishad, and the Ganesha stotra (prayer) from the Narada Purana are chanted.

Once installed, Aarti's are periodically performed with friends and family - typically in the morning and the evening.

Within India, the festival is mainly celebrated at home, and publicly by local community groups in western states of Maharashtra and Goa and all southern states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Celebration at Home[edit]
Within homes, the families install small clay statues for worship during festival. The idol is worshipped in the morning and evening, which involves various offerings of flowers, durva, karanji, kadabu and modak.[7][8] The daily worship ceremonies ends with the worshippers singing the Aarti in honour of Ganesha, other Gods and saints. In Maharashtra, the Marathi aarti "Sukhakarta Dukhaharta", composed by the 17th century Hindu saints Samarth Ramdas is sung.[9]

In Goa, the festival is locally known as Chavath in Konkani language and is also known as Parab (Parva, or "auspicious celebration").[10] In Goa, the actual festivities start on the third day of the lunar month Bhadrapada. On this day Haritalika, or Gauri,[who?] with Shiva is worshiped by women, which also includes fasting.[1] Instruments like the Ghumot, cymbals and Pakhawaj are played in ceremony.[11] Harvest festival, known as Navyachi Pancham, is celebrated on the next day where newly harvested paddy is ceremoniously brought home from the fields or temples (where Puja is held on a community level) and a Puja is conducted[clarification needed]. Communities that eat seafood refrain from doing so while the domestic Ganesha celebrations last.[1]

In Karnataka, the Gowri festival precedes the Ganesh Chaturthi, and people across the state wish each other on the auspicious Gowri - Ganesha Habba (festival). In Andhra Pradesh, Ganesha idols of clay (Matti Vinayakudu) and turmeric (Siddhi Vinayakudu) are usually worshipped at homes along with plaster of paris idols. In Tamil Nadu, the festival is also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi or Pillayar Chaturthi and the festival falls on the fourth day after a new moon in the month of aavani. The idols here are usually made of clay or Papier-mâché, since plaster of paris idols have been banned by the state government.[citation needed]. Idols are also made of coconuts and other organic products. The idols are worshipped for some days in pandals and are immersed in the Bay of Bengal the following Sunday. In Kerala, the festival is also known as Lamboodhara Piranalu. The festival falls in the month of Chingam.[12] In the city of Thiruvananthapuram, a grand procession is held from the Pazhavangadi Ganapathi temple to the Shankumugham beach, with tall statues of Ganesha made from organic items and milk being immersed in the sea.[13] Elephant worship is also widely practiced across Kerala.

The traditions of each family differs over when to end the celebrations. The domestic celebrations come to an end after 1, 1 1/2, 3, 5, 7 or 11 days when the idol is taken in a procession to a large body of water such as a lake, river or the sea for immersion. Due to environmental concerns, a number of families now avoid the large water bodies and instead let the clay statue disintegrate in a bucket or tub of water at home. After a few days the clay is used in the home garden. In some cities, a public eco-friendly process is used for immersion.[14]

Public celebrations[edit]

Ganesha Visarjan in Mumbai

Ganpati Idol at Pune
Public celebrations of the festival are popular. These are organised by local youth groups, neighborhood associations or a group of tradespeople. The funds for the public festival are collected from members of the association arranging the celebration, local residents or local businesses.[15] The Ganesha idols and accompanying statues are installed in temporary shelter called mandap or pandals. The festival is the time for cultural activities like singing and theater performances, orchestra and community activities such as free medical checkup, blood donation camps, and charity for the poor. In modern times, the festival is not only a religious festival, but has become a very critical and important economic activity for Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai. Many artists, industries, and businesses earn a significant amount of their living from this Festival. Ganesha Festival also provides a stage for budding artists to present their art to the public. Not only Hindus but many other religions also participate in the celebration like Muslims,[16][17][18] Jains, Christian and others.[

The main sweet dish during the festival is the modak (modak in Marathi and Konkani, modakam/kudumu in Telugu, modaka/kadubu in Kannada, kozhakatta/modakkam in Malayalam and kozhukattai/modagam in Tamil). A modak is a dumpling made from rice/wheat flour with a stuffing of fresh or dry-grated coconut, jaggery, dry fruits and other condiments. It is either steamed or fried. Another popular sweet dish is the karanji (karjikai in Kannada) which is similar to the modak in composition and taste but has a semicircular shape.

In Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, modak (flour dumplings with a sweet stuffing mixture), Laddu, Vundrallu (steamed, coarsely ground rice flour balls), Panakam (jaggery, black pepper and cardamom flavored drink), Vadapappu (soaked and moong lentils), Chalividi (cooked rice flour and jaggery mixture), etc., are offered to Ganesha. These offerings are called Naivedyam in Telugu. Traditionally, the plate containing the Modak is filled with twenty-one pieces of the sweet.

In the coastal state of Goa,apart from Modak,a Goan version of Idly called Sanna is extremely popular,[22] along with Patoleo and Payasa.

It is not known when nor how Ganesh Chaturthi was first celebrated.[23] However, the Ganesha festival was being celebrated as a public event in Pune since the times of Shivaji (1630–1680), the founder of the Maratha Empire.[23] The Peshwas, the de facto hereditary administrators of the Empire from 1718 till its end in 1818, encouraged the celebrations in their administrative seat Pune as Ganesha was their family deity (Kuladevata).[23] With the fall of the Peshwas, the Ganesha festival lost state patronage and became a private family celebration again in Maharashtra until its revival by Indian freedom fighter and social reformer, Lokmanya Tilak.[23]

The public festival (as celebrated in Maharashtra today), was introduced by Bhausaheb Laxman Javale in 1892 by installing the first Sarvajanik (public) Ganesha idol. This followed a meeting at his residence, which was attended by Balasaheb Natu, and Krishnajipant Khasgiwale, amongst others. Khasgiwale, on his visit to the Maratha-ruled state of Gwalior, had seen the tradition of public celebration still maintained and brought it to the attention of his friends in Pune.[24] In 1893 Lokmanya Tilak praised the concept of Sarvajanik Ganesha Utsav in his newspaper, Kesari, and the next year he installed a Ganesha idol in Kesari Wada too. Tilak's efforts transformed the annual domestic festival into a large, well-organized public event.[25] Tilak recognized the wide appeal of the deity Ganesha as "the god for everybody",[26][27] and popularized Ganesh Chaturthi as a national festival in order to "bridge the gap between Brahmins and 'non-Brahmins' and find a context in which to build a new grassroots unity between them", and generate nationalistic fervour amongst the people of Maharashtra to oppose the British colonial rule.[28][29] Tilak was the first to install large public images of Ganesha in pavilions, and also established the practice of submerging the idols in rivers, sea, or other pools of water on the tenth day after Ganesh Chaturthi.[30]

Under Tilak's encouragement, the festival facilitated community participation and involvement in the form of intellectual discourses, poetry recitals, performances of plays, musical concerts, and folk dances. It served as a meeting ground for people of all castes and communities in times when the British discouraged social and political gatherings, in order to exercise control over the population.[31]

In Goa, the festival predates the Kadamba era. The Goa Inquisition had banned Hindu festivals, and heavy restrictions were imposed on Hindus who did not convert to Christianity. However Hindu Goans continued to practice their culture, despite the restrictions. Many families worship Ganesha in the form of Patri (leaves used for worshiping Ganesha or any other deity), a picture drawn on paper, small silver idols, or in some households Ganesha idols are even hidden, a unique feature to the Ganesha festival in Goa. The reason for these differences was due to a ban on clay Ganesha idols and festivities, as a part of the Inquisition by the Jesuits.[32] Another striking feature about Chavath of Goa is, unlike Maharashtra, it's more a family affair, and is a sentimental time for Hindu Goans. It is generally a celebration of the joint family, and some families of 1000 or more members, still celebrate the festival together with great fanfare in their ancestral homes.[33] Goan Catholics also take part in the festivities in many places.[c

The most serious impact of the festival on the environment is due to the immersion of idols made of Plaster of Paris into lakes, rivers and the sea. Traditionally, the idol was sculpted out of mud taken from nearby bodies of water. After the festival, it was returned to the Earth by immersing it in a nearby water body. This cycle was meant to represent the cycle of creation and dissolution in Nature.

However, as the production of Ganesha idols on a commercial basis grew, the "earthen" or "natural clay" (shaadu maati in Marathi; banka matti in Telugu) was replaced by Plaster of Paris. Plaster is a man-made material, easier to mould, lighter and less expensive than clay, however, it is non-biodegradable, and insoluble in water. Moreover, the chemical paints used to adorn these plaster idols themselves contain heavy metals like Mercury and Cadmium, resulting in water pollution. The non-biodegradable accessories that originally adorned the idol also accumulate in the layers of sand on the beach.

In the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Radio Jaagriti, the leading Hindu radio station in the country[according to whom?], has actively educated the public of the environmental implications of the use of plaster of Paris idols. Clay idols of Lord Ganesha have been encouraged to be used for immersion into the water courses to prevent any harmful environmental impacts. Ganesh Chaturthi is also a widely celebrated Hindu Festival in Trinidad and Tobago.

In Goa, the sale of Ganesha idols made from Plaster of Paris is banned by the State Government. People are urged to buy traditional clay idols made by artisans.[34]

Recently there have been new initiatives sponsored by the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board to produce clay Ganesha idols in Hyderabad.[35]

Artificial pool created to immerse Plaster of Paris idols of Ganesha.
On the final day of the Ganesha festival thousands of plaster idols are immersed into water bodies by devotees. These increase the level of acidity in the water and the content of heavy metals when using Plaster of Paris and heavy-metal-based paints.[36] Several non-governmental and governmental bodies have been addressing this issue. Amongst the solutions proposed are as follows:

Return to the traditional use of natural clay idols and immerse the icon in a bucket of water at home.
Use of a permanent icon made of stone and brass, used every year and a symbolic immersion only.
Recycling of plaster idols to repaint them and use them again the following year.
Ban on the immersion of plaster idols into lakes, rivers and the sea.[37]
Creative use of other biodegradable materials such as papier-mâché or food to create Ganesha idols.
Encouraging people to immerse the idols in tanks of water rather than in natural water bodies.
To handle religious sentiments sensitively, some temples and spiritual groups have taken up the cause.[38]


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