Beginning of the festival season of India – Ganesh Festival / Vinayaka Chaturthi

After the Independence Day on August 15th, its non stop festivals from September to March in India.  The first of the biggest festival on the Hindu calendar starts with Vinayaka Chaturthi / Ganesh Chaturthi / Ganesha festival .  The elephant headed God is one of the most loved and most worshipped by Hindus the world over.

He is widely revered as the Remover of Obstacles and also known as the Lord of Beginings.  Hence he is prayed to before starting any major project. He is honoured at the beginning of rituals and ceremonies and invoked as the Patron of Letters during writing sessions.

Ganesha is considered to a very intelligent God and is hence considered as the God of learning.  He is also associated with intelligence, wisdom or intellect.

The annual festival honours Ganesha for ten days, starting on Ganesh Chaturthi, which typically falls in late August or early September.The festival begins with people bringing in clay idols of Ganesha, symbolising Ganesha’s visit. The festival culminates on the day of Ananta Chaturdashi, when idols (murtis) of Ganesha are immersed in the most convenient body of water.

Some families have a tradition of immersion on the 3rd, 5th, or 7th day. In 1893, Lokmanya Tilak transformed this annual Ganesha festival from private family celebrations into a grand public event.He did so “to bridge the gap between the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins and find an appropriate context in which to build a new grassroots unity between them” in his nationalistic strivings against the British in Maharashtra.

Because of Ganesha’s wide appeal as “the god for Everyman”, Tilak chose him as a rallying point for Indian protest against British rule. Tilak was the first to install large public images of Ganesha in pavilions, and he established the practice of submerging all the public images on the tenth day. Today, Hindus across India celebrate the Ganapati festival with great fervour, though it is most popular in the state of Maharashtra. The festival also assumes huge proportions in Mumbai, Pune, and in the surrounding belt of Ashtavinayaka temples.

The biggest Ganesha idol is generally put up at the Khairatabad location in Hyderabad.  More information about this Ganapathi deva can be had at this link.

This year the Ganesh festival is being celebrated on the 19th of September 2012.  The idol will be immersed 10 days later on the 29th of September 2012 in huge processions all over India.

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