HINDUISM | Ganesh Charurthi

25 August – 05 September

Also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, this ten-day festival takes place during the Hindu month of Bhadra and is a celebration of the birth of the elephant-headed God, Ganesha. Lord Ganesha is worshipped as the God of beginnings, the Lord of arts and sciences and the deva (god) of wisdom. He is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati

There are two different legends about Ganesha’s birth. In the first, the devas asked Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati to create a child to be a vighnakartaa (obstacle-creator) and a vighnahartaa (obstacle-averter) against impending demonic forces. In the second legend, Parvati sculpted a son from the dirt on her body when she took a bath, naming her new child Ganesha. When Lord Shiva returned to the house he found Ganesha standing guard at the bathroom door while Parvati finished her bath. Not recognising Ganesha as his son, Lord Shiva challenged him and cut of his head. When she found out, Parvati was distraught and to appease her, Lord Shiva promised to bring their son back to life. When the devas returned from their search for a new head, they presented Lord Shiva and Parvati with the head of an elephant. Lord Shiva fixed the head onto the body of Ganesha and brought him back to life.

In preparation for the celebrations, life-like clay models of Lord Ganesha are prepared. These can vary in size from a petite 2cm to over 7 metres. On the first day of the festival, the statues are placed on raised platforms inside homes or in ceremonial tents outside. In a ritual called pranapratishhtha, holy mantras are chanted as priests invoke life into the idols. This is then followed by special tributes, which include offerings of coconut, jiggery (palm sugar), modakas (rice flour preparations), durva (trefoil) blades and red flowers, as well as the anointing of the idols with red unguent or sandal paste. The ceremonies are accompanied by the singing of Vedic hymns and Ganesha stotra. On the final day of festivities, communities join together in song and dance as they process through the streets, carrying the Ganesha idols to nearby rivers. Here, after final offerings of coconuts, camphor and flowers, the idols are immersed into the water where they soften, liquefy and return to the river bed.

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