Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival which celebrates the birthday of Lord Ganesh on the 4th day of the bright half of Bhadrapad. Lord Ganesha is also popularly known as Ganapathy and Vinayak. This is celebrated with in Maharashtra with most pomp and show. Lord Ganesha or Vinayak is worshipped on this day to remove stackles and seek progress in all ventures. In most part of the country large and small idols are worshipped and then taken into large procession to the waterfront for immersions. Each locality has competition with other for play of idols. During this ten day long festival various cultural events are also conducted. It is celebrated with great pomp and fervor in Northern India. History and Origin
History states that the Indian freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak was solely responsible for the transformation of this family festival into a major organized public event after 1893.During the Peshwa rule in Maharashtra there was a big rift between Brahmins and 'non-Brahmins'. In order to bridge this gap between them Lokmanya Tilak encouraged more on this festival to be celebrated as a major public event to bring a feel of unity and nationalism among the people. He also wanted the entire Indian community to take part so that to get the condition of perfect harmony. For people to take active participation he insisted on intellectual discourses, poetry recitals, performances of plays, musical concerts, and folk dances. Legends
According to Puranas and legends when Parvathi was taking bath, she wanted somebody to guard from outside, so made an idol out of the dirt that came from her body and placed it outside. When Lord Shiva tried to enter the idol blocked him, because of which Shiva got very furious and cut off the head of the idol. When Parvathi realized what has happened she explained that the idol was their son, manas putra.Shiva felt very sorry of what has happened and immediately asked his servant Gan to go and get the head of the first human being he would meet.
As Gan saw an elephant he cut the head of it Shiva. Then Shiva fixed the head of the elephant to their son's body and gave life. This is the reason why Lord Ganesha is referred by the name "Gajanan" for Gaj means elephant and "anan" means head. There is also another legend attached to Ganesha's modaks.Ganesha used to be a lover of modaks and could not stop eating them and once for which the made fun. Annoyed and angry Lord Ganesha cursed the moon saying that his beauty can be revealed only once in 28 days which is one of the reason behind the waxing and waning of moon. Customs and Traditions
The place where the idol is kept is cleaned and white washed and painted. Especially the place where the idol will be kept are cleaned and decorated several days before the festival. There is a special community of people who make idols of the Lord. Once the idol is brought it is taken with a saffron cloth covering its face to the place where the pooja is going to be carried out. As the idol is carried it is accompanied with chanting and the sound of cymbals. After this some rituals are said to be performed by the priest by which the idol is said to be imbued with life.
This is followed by some traditional pooja done by the priest with a silken red lower garment and a shawl around his shoulders. Daily poojas are conducted and prasadham is offered. The Ganapati Aarti and the Atharvashirdha are sung to the accompaniment of cymbals, bells and rhythmic clapping. Prasadam mainly consists of modak which is made out of flour and sweetened coconut. This is first offered to God and only then given to the members. Every day till the idol is immersed in the water on the tenth day, poojas are conducted both in the morning and evening along with recitations of the Ganesha Stuti, devotional songs, offerings of flowers and incense, and lamps. Application of chandan to Lord Ganesha is a traditional practice. Celebrations
The celebration for Ganesh Chaturathi starts with the making of idols of Lord Ganesha. Once it is made the idols are carried and kept for display in a public pavillion where various rituals are performed. This is followed by a Pranapratishhtha pooja during which it is believed that Lord Ganesha is pervaded into the idol. After this the celebration includes a ritual called Shhodashopachara with the God is honoured by sixteen different modes.
Another major part of celebration is the preparation of a sweet named modaka and then offered to god. Daily bhajans and singing of hymns are carried along with aarti for Ganesha. During this the family members assemble together for the pooja ceremony. Finally on the last day is the grand finale where a huge procession is held and the idol of the Lord is immersed in the water body only to see off the Lord. Ganesh Chaturathi is celebrated with same enthusiasm across the world. Gifts
Celebration never goes without gifts for it is one of the best ways to show your feelings and love for each other. For gifts for the occasion one can go for gold or silver coins with images of Ganesha. Other suggestions includes Ganesha Idols,Ganesha Pendants,Ganesha Gift Hampers including idol of the Lord Ganesha together with sacred text book of Ganesha, greetings, diyas, sweets, chocolates and crispy delicacies like dry fruits.