Ganesha or Vinayaka is regarded as the primary deity in the Hindu pantheon and bestows upon devotees wisdom, prosperity and good fortune . He has the unique honour of being worshipped with equal adoration by all sections of Hindus. The Lord Ganesha is also worshiped in Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Nepal, and China.
It is the day of Ganesh’a birth that is celebrated in various parts of the country as Ganesh Puja /Utsav with the festivities the grandest in the state of Maharashtra. In Tamil Nadu the festival goes by the name Vinayaka Chathurthi. The festival is celebrated on the Chathurthi day in the month of Bhadrapadha or Aavani for Tamils (August/September). It’s a 10 day festival that begins on Shukla Chaturthi and culminates on Anant Chaturdashi.
There are many stories associated with the festival- how he got an elephant head , the day he cursed the moon to wax and wane etc.
Ganesh Chaturthi was observed after the Maratha empire was set up by Chhatrapati Shivaji in the 16th century but was largely confined to individual homes. It was social reformer and Indian freedom fighter, Lokmanya Tilak who revived the celebration as a means to unite the people through festival and since then, Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated with enthusiasm as a public festiacross the Nation. It was in 1892 that the first idol of Ganesh was installed by Bhausaheb Laxman Javale . It was Javale who introduced the current Maharashtra public festival inspiring Lokmanya Tilak to popularize Ganesh Chaturthi as a national festival.
During the festival colourful pandals (temporary shrines) are setup and Ganesha idols are displayed for the public to worship . Daily prayers are offered with prasadam distribution. Cultural performances are also held. On the 10th day the idol is taken through streets on a procession or Visarjan with great fanfare to be immersed in waterbodies.
Ganesha idols made of eco friendly materials from clay, grains to activated charcoal are in the raise – helping celebrate the festival in a green, clean way.
Modhak, said to be a favourite of the Lord, made of rice flour, coconut and jaggery is a much relished offering.