Over the centuries, Ganesh Chaturthi, which was just a family affair, has gained the status of being a social festival. Thanks to the efforts of the freedom fighter Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak. This festival, which is dedicated to the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati, Ganesh, has gained so much popularity that the preparations for the festivities begin at least a fortnight before.
Chants of "Ganapati Bappa Morya, Mangala Murti Morya" will begin resounding across Maharashtra at the start of the annual 10-day Ganesh Chaturthi festival on Saturday.
The festival marks Lord Ganesha`s birthday on the fourth day of the bright fortnight of the Bhadrapada month of the Hindu calendar. Millions of people are expected to take part.
Pandals or makeshift tents with Ganesh idols dot the Maharashtra landscape, and in Mumbai, the installation of these idols in households and in Mandals is being actively pursued. At least 8,000 to 9,000 `Ganesh Mandals` have come up in the city.
Organizers are competing with each other for the decking up the idols. For example, at a pandal in Mumbai’s Lal Baugh area, the idol has been decorated with nine kilograms of gold valued at 8.1 million rupees. Half of it was a necklace weighing four kilograms given by a devotee.
The festival is hugely popular in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Legend has it that Hindu Goddess Parvati had created Ganesh from a perfumed putty-like substance, used to remove dirt from her body in an ancient self-cleansing ritual, the equivalent of a modern bath.
Parvati`s husband Lord Shiva, one of the three most powerful Gods in the Hindu pantheon, flew into rage and beheaded the young lad and barred his entry into Kailash, Shiva`s snow-clad mountain abode. When he later realised that the boy was created by his wife Parvati during his absence, Shiva brought him back to life by slaying an elephant and giving him the animal`s head. Thus was created Ganesh, one of the best-loved of Indian gods.
From a rustic tribal God, worshipped under village trees to his exalted position as Siddhivinayak, and from a non-Aryan, non-descript divinity to the global Ganesha, the rise of Ganapati has been amazing and bewildering.
In a religious mélange of 33 crores Gods and Goddesses, with each one having a pre-assigned role, Ganesha had every reason to be lost in the plethora. But then he is filled with surprises.
Ganesha is perhaps the most dynamic among Gods and also open to all possibilities of change and adaptation. He can be seen doing all sorts or chores, in all positions and in every form. Choosing adaptability as a way of life, he kept on updating his image. Hence while the powerful Vedic deities like Indra, Mitra and Varuna were lost into oblivion, Ganapati continued to rise in popularity charts. A god who, changes with the times is a good one to emulate.
Ganesh doesn’t have a pan-India approach for nothing. With Mallus cladding Him in mundu, Gujaratis depicting Him as the ideal dandiya boy, the northerners happy to see Him perched on a rat and the ancient Afghans sculpting Him in their traditional turban et al, I dare say Ganesh one of most popular Gods of the Indian pantheon and with the unique position of being prayed to first.
We should thank Ganesh for appearing and Adi Shankaracharya for categorizing Him as one of the 5 eternal deities of Hindu religion (the other 4 being: Sun, Vishnu, Shiva, Durga)
Just imagine (again) whom would we call upon to clear our path of obstacles had it not been for Ganesh; the Karmayogi Krishna (would probably say: You will reap as you sow) or the Mahayogi Shiva (would just mutter ‘Ommm’)?
But why is Ganesh called Vighneshwara, the Lord of Obstacles, if he is supposed to destroy the obstacles? In Hinduism and Buddhist tantra, Vinayakas were four mischief-making entities. If they were propitiated, they obliged one by not causing any trouble. Some just point out that it is Ganesh’s job to give trouble to those who are up to no good, that’s why the name.
Whatever the history/hearsay, the reason that Ganesh endures as the God of small and big things even today is that He is so real and ideal at the same time.
He is the child in all of us. He wants to be loved by His parents- even more than His sibling. Even if He has to forsake his desires (symbolized by flashy mounts viz lion, bull, peacock etc.) and choose the humble mouse, he will happily do so just so His parents favour Him.