The Ganesh festival or the birthday of God Ganesh (Elephant God) popularly known as “Ganesh Chathurthi” is celebrated widely by the Hindus in India. In some states such as Maharashtra the celebrations go on for about 10 days. Ganesh is widely regarded as the God of “Wisdom”, “Knowledge” and “Prosperity”. He is also regarded as the harbinger of a good beginning and the remover of all obstacles and hence any auspicious event starts with a prayer invoking the blessings of God Ganesh.
Many decades ago as a child I have seen Ganesh Chathurthi being celebrated with small idols made of clay. These idols would be tastefully decorated and worshiped on the day of Chathurthi. As times passed and with changing traditions and lifestyles and affluence the scale and magnitude of the celebrations also changed. Today the Ganesh Chathurthi celebrations have become a project by itself and with the passing of each year the scale as well as the decibel level is on the increase. Idols are now about 10 feet tall. Originally made of clay many have now switched to paper pulp and painted in all most all colours. It just not the Ganesh now with the elephant head. He may now hold a lap top or cricket bat or a tennis racket or lay with set of drums or the violin or guitar or have Spider Man or Bat Man or Super Man to keep him company. The choice of the company or the prop depends what has been the flavour of the season. There are many stories floating around as why Ganesh came to being with an elephant head.
One such story that we have been told and is being even narrated today goes something like this: Goddess Parvati (wife of God Shiva) went for a bath in her palace and appointed Nandi – the Gate Keeper or the Guard of God Shiva to be the gate keeper and not allow anyone inside. However, Shiva came along and Nandi could not refuse him permission or stop him. This infuriated Parvati who made a Ganesh out of turmeric paste and stationed him at the gate instead of Nandi and he – Ganesh being a true follower of Parvati would prevent anyone from getting inside. Another story which is more popular is that Shiva was stopped at the gate by Ganesh. This infuriated Shiva who in fit of his temper cut off the head of Ganesh. Parvati was immensely saddened and vowed to destroy all creations. This got Brahma (The God of all Creations) worried and he implored Parvati not to destroy all creations. Parvati relented and agreed not to destroy all creations under two conditions. One Ganesh should be brought back to life and secondly he should be worshiped over all the other Gods for eternity. Brahma agreed and requested Shiva to breathe life into the dead Ganesh. Shiva requested Brahma to get a head for him for the decapitated Ganesh. Only the elephant agreed to give its head. Thus Brahma brought the head of an elephant which was placed on the decapitated Ganesh and Shiva breathed life into him. Thus Ganesh has an elephant head and worshiped till eternity and the first to be worshiped before the start of any auspicious ceremony.
This year Ganesh Chathurthi was celebrated on August 29, 2014. Traditionally once the ceremonies are over the idol of Ganesh is ceremoniously taken out and immersed in the sea or river or lake.