New Delhi: The benevolent elephant-headed god made a grand entry into the capital Thursday with 22 Maharashtrian Mandals (committees) installing colourful idols of Lord Ganesha for a 11-day ritual of prayers and festivities.
The capital is home to 2.5 lakh Marathi-speaking people, who celebrate this festival with fanfare. Cultural extravaganzas are integral to the celebrations.
The Ganesh Chaturthi, when the Ganesh idols are installed, is the beginning of the traditional festival of Maharashtra. The festival ends with the immersion of the idols on Anant Chaturdashi. It is also celebrated in many parts of the country.
Some of the most popular Chaturthi carnivals are held in Uttam Nagar in west Delhi and Lakshmi Nagar in east Delhi in the capital. The carnivals thrives around a "puja mandap" - which is made of an ornate marquee that seats the lord.
The idols are crafted from a special variety of clay found only in Maharashtra.
This year, two ethnic shopping and culture hubs - the Dilli Haat at Pitampura and near INA - have joined the festivities with special prayers, cultural shows and traditional Ganeshotsava platters of food.
A member of the Maratha Mitra Mandal in Karol Bagh said "the celebrations at Dilli Haat will be special attraction for revellers from all communities and regions because of the open nature of the venues".
Feasts are essential to the invocation of the elephant-headed god, who loves food. A traditional Chaturthi delicacy is the "modak" - a sweet dumpling with a filling of fresh coconut, dried fruits and jaggery.
Celebrations at the Sree Vinayaka Mandir at Sarojini Nagar began Aug 31 with a Vedic rite - Sama Veda Upakarma. A ceremonial idol of the deity for the four-day ritual was installed Thursday at the temple.
At the Marathi Mandals, on the 11th day the clay idols of Ganesha will be taken out in processions for immersion in the Yamuna river.
Historians cannot trace the beginning of the festival. The scriptures cite that Ganesha was "deified" because the elephant headed son of Shiva and Parvati - who was endowed with a sharp intellect, wisdom and occult powers - was declared the most superior among the gods by Shiva.
The Chaturthi Pooja was known to be held during the reign of Satavahanas, Chalukya and Rashthrakuta kings.
In Maharashtra, Ganesh Chaturthi is said have been initiated by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja to promote culture and nationalism.
Over the years, the festival has spread across India with large-scale migrations from Maharashtra to taake on a pan-Indian flavour.
A multi-million dollar industry of gifts and goodies operates around the 11-day festival. As the icon is a fashionable household artifact, lifestyle stores in the capital stock Ganesha miniatures which are made of a variety of materials like crystal, glass, gemstones, porcelain and ceramics, and even silver.
Episode, a boutique lifestyle store in N-Block Market of Greater Kailash-I, is selling `Silver Grace`, a seated icon of the deity priced at Rs.5.8 lakh. Another version of the icon, Divine Blessings, a three-foot tall Ganesha crafted by potter Anju Kumar at Ayaan on MG Road is priced Rs.18,500. The `Presiding Deity`, a colourful icon embellished with Swarovski crystals and gemstones stones, costs Rs.2.25 lakh.
"Business is brisk in Ganesha icons. This is the time when the capital, like the rest of the country, opens its purse strings," said a spokesperson for Jay Strongwater, a boutique store at DLF Emporio at Vasant Kunj.