The states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, the birthday of Lord Ganesha, which is one of the most joyous events of the year. This festival falls on the fourth day of the month of Bhadrapad (coinciding with the English months of August/September). A beginning of a period of fun filled devotion to the lovable Lord Ganesh, the celebrations come to a climax in ten days subsequently. On the tenth day – Anant Chaturdashi – colourful and multi-varied idols of Lord Ganesh are bid adieu by immersing in flowing waters. Chants of ‘Ganpati bappa morya, phudcha varshi loukar yaa’ (‘Farewell, Oh Lord Ganpati, come soon next year’) fill the air and the earnestness of devotion is to be seen to be believed!
Talking about the legend that is attached with this festival, there are some interesting mythological stories that reveal the birth of Lord Ganesh and how He came to be made the Supreme God.
According to one legend, Lord Ganesh was considered as the creation of Goddess Parvati, who breathed life into a doll shaped out of her scarf.
Another legend has it that Lord Ganesh was born to Lord Shiva’s wife Goddess Parvati when Lord Shiva was deep into tapasya (meditation) on Mount Kailash in the Himalayas. Goddess Parvati was with her parents at Kashi at the time of her child’s birth and she did not inform her husband about the birth of Lord Ganesh nor did she tell her son about his father’s identity. One day while bathing, Goddess Parvati asked her son to stand on guard and not to let anyone in. Just then Lord Shiva returned from his tapasya and wanted to meet his wife but little Lord Ganesh, not knowing that it was his father, would not let Lord Shiva in. This angered Lord Shiva so much that he cut off the little child’s head. The commotion brought Goddess Parvati rushing out only to see her beloved son’s head chopped off by her husband. On realizing what he had done, a horrified Lord Shiva promised his wife to bring their son back to life by placing the head of the first living thing that came his way. And it happened to be an elephant.
A son with the head of an elephant further dismayed Goddess Parvati who felt that no one would pay any attention or worship Lord Ganesh. Lord Shiva then declared that Lord Ganesh would be worshipped first before any other God or Goddess. This angered the other Gods who complained about it to Lord Brahma. But the Lord did not entertain them saying that Lord Shiva (also known as Mahesh) was one of the trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh) and the three of them held each other as equals. Only Lord Shiva could alter his verdict. So the Gods then went to Lord Shiva and asked him to test their intelligence before declaring which God should be worshipped first. The Lord, who believed in playing fair, agreed and asked them to go round the world in their vahans (vehicles) and said that whoever came first would be the one to be worshipped first. The vehicles of all the other Gods were faster than Lord Ganesh’s, whose vehicle was a mouse. So, happily they started out, confident that Lord Ganesh on his mouse would be the last one to complete the race! Lord Ganesh circumambulated his seated parents on his mouse declaring they being Supreme were the ‘real world’. The other Gods could not dispute this and agreed that Lord Ganesh was certainly the most intelligent of them all! Ever since, before any religious function or auspicious occasion like marriage or inauguration, Lord Ganesh’s name is invoked with devotion.
More to come on this festival, for now try your hands on these popular feasts served during this festivity: