Ganesha Chaturthi

Ganesha Chaturthi

Mushikavaahana modaka hastha,
Chaamara karna vilambitha sutra,
Vaamana rupa maheshwara putra,
Vighna vinaayaka paada namasthe

"SALUTATIONS to Lord Ganesha who is Brahman Himself, who is the Supreme Lord, who is the energy of Lord Siva, who is the source of all bliss, and who is the bestower of all virtuous qualities and success in all undertakings."

Ganesha Chaturthi is a day on which Lord Ganesha makes his presence known on earth for all his devotees; the day is also termed Vinayaka Chaturthi. It is observed in the calendar month of Bhadrapada, starting on the Shukla Chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon) which comes sometime between 20th of August and 15th of September. An important part of the festival is the immersion of the Ganesha statue into tanks, wells and ponds.

Immersion Lord Ganesha
Immersion Lord Ganesha - Tamari Nagar Tank: Tiruvannamalai

Ganesha or Ganapati is an extremely popular God. One of his many names is Vigneshwara, the destroyer of obstacles. He is often worshipped for success in undertakings and for the gift of greater intelligence. Ganesha is the God of education, knowledge, wisdom, literature and the fine arts.

The festival of Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated throughout India. It is believed that the observance of this Festival was started by the Maratha ruler Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja, to promote culture and nationalism and was later revived by the freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak to defy the British who had banned public assemblies.

Lord Ganesha

According to Hindu Mythology, once Lord Siva was out hunting with his Ganas (attendants). Parvati, Siva's consort, was alone and desired to take a bath. But since there were no attendants to guard the entrance of the house, Parvati created a young Ganesha from mud and asked him not to let anyone inside. Soon, Lord Siva returned and found an arrogant lad stopping him from entering his house. In a fit of fury, Lord Siva cut off Ganesha's head. When Parvati came to know about the fate of Ganesha, she became so overwhelmed with grief that her husband (Lord Siva) asked one of his Ganas to bring the head of the first animal he saw sleeping with its head towards north. The Gana returned with an elephant's head and Siva placed it on Ganesha's body and restored his life.

One version of a legend relating to the source of Ganesha's elephant head goes that at the behest of the Gods, who needed a deity able to remove obstacles from their path of action, Siva himself was born from Parvati's womb, in the form of Gajanana.

According to the Linga-Purana, the child Ganesha was created by Siva's mind in order to triumph over the enemies of the Gods. Looking at the child, Parvati took him on her lap and made the vow that an undertaking would not be successful unless Ganesha was first worshipped. Siva declared the child to be Ganapati, Lord of the Ganas (celestial hosts).

In the Varaha-Purana, Ganesha is depicted as a young man originating from the glittering forehead of Siva and absorbed in deep meditation. As Parvati was disappointed that the boy was born without her intervention, She wished that his head be that of an elephant. However, when she saw the elephant-headed child, she immediately loved him, and declared that any human or divine undertaking, would not be successful unless Ganesha be first worshipped.

Another Puranic legend tells that Parvati longed for a child and informed Siva about her desire. In response, the Lord decreed Parvati observe a year long penance. Thereupon, Sage Sanatkumara submitted Parvati to various tests in order to ascertain the force of her will. Eventually a glorious child was born and the Gods and nine Planets (Navagrahas) went to Mount Kailash to admire him. One of the Planets, Shani (Saturn) would not raise his eyes to look at the child. Parvati requested him to view and admire the baby. When Shani raised his eyes and looked at the child, the baby's head instantaneously separated from the body.

In response Vishnu went on his vahana Garuda to search for a new head to replace the lost one. On the banks of Pushpabhadra River, he met a herd of sleeping elephants. Choosing a resting animal, whose head was turned northwards, he cut if off and brought it back. According to a version of this legend, the elephant was actually a Gandharva who desired to obtain liberation from earthly life. On Vishnu's return, the elephant head was attached onto the child and Vishnu gave him eight names: Vighneshvara, Ganesha, Heramba, Gajanana, Lambodara, Ekadanta, Soorpakarna and Vinayaka.

The Ganesha Chaturthi festival ends with Visarjan or immersion of the idol in water. Normally the immersion ceremony takes place on Ananta Chaturdasi day. However as this Festival is not codified, the date of the immersion ceremony is arbitrary with no strict rules and depends upon the wishes of the person performing the Visarjan. Ananta Chaturdasi is believed to be the day when Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Anantapadmanabha, the Ananta Sayana form of Lord Vishnu in which he is reclining on Ananta.

Anantapadmanabha, the Ananta Sayana form of Lord Vishnu
Anantapadmanabha, the Ananta Sayana form of Lord Vishnu

Swami Shivananda Recommends:
"On Ganesha Chaturthi, meditate on the stories connected with Lord Ganesha early in the morning, during the Brahmamuhurta period. Then, after taking a bath, go to the temple and do the prayers of Lord Ganesha. Offer Him some coconut and sweet pudding. Pray with faith and devotion that He may remove all the obstacles that you experience on the spiritual path. Worship Him at home, too. Have an image of Lord Ganesha in your house. Feel His Presence in it.

Don't forget DO NOT LOOK AT THE MOON on this day; remember that it behaved unbecomingly towards the Lord. This really means avoid the company of all those who have no faith in God, and who deride God, your Guru or your religion - from this very day. Take fresh spiritual resolves and pray to Lord Ganesha for inner spiritual strength to attain success in all your undertakings."

Story about not looking at the moon
There is a legend associated with Ganesha Chaturthi, from the Skanda Puranam. Lord Ganesha was once invited for a feast in Chandraloka (the Moon's abode). Ganesha being fond of sweets, ate laddus till his stomach bloated, so much so that as he got up to walk after the meal, he could not balance himself because of his huge stomach and he slipped and fell. His stomach burst and all the laddus came rolling out. Seeing this, the Moon was highly amused and burst out laughing. Ganesha got angry and cursed the Moon that it would vanish from the Universe.

Because of the Moon's disappearance, the whole world began to wane. The gods asked Lord Siva to get Ganesha to revoke his curse. The Moon also apologised for his misbehaviour. Finally, Ganesha modified his curse saying that the Moon would be invisible only on one day of the month and would be partially seen on Ganesha Chaturthi. He also added that anyone who looked at the moon on Ganesha Chaturthi would face a false charge. This is the reason why, even today, it is considered inauspicious to look at the moon on Ganesha Chathurthi.

The Festival ends with the immersion of the idol on Ananta Chaturdasi Day.

On that day, statues of the God are taken through the streets in procession accompanied with dancing, singing and fanfare and then immersed in a water body (river, sea, lake or water tank). This symbolises a ritual departure of the Lord upon his journey towards His abode in Kailash - at which time he takes along the misfortunes of his devotees.

However one decides to celebrate the Ganesha festival, try to avoid the pollution and environmental damage caused by Plaster of Paris idols and chemical paints upon immersion into tanks, wells and water bodies. For help in understanding the environmental impact of this Festival and what we can do to help, visit

Eco friendly statues for sale, Tiruvannamalai
Eco friendly statues for sale, Tiruvannamalai

To view a pictorial representation of the Ganesha Chaturthi Festival at Tiruvannamalai (Arunachala) go to this link.