History of the Ganesh Festival
Although it is unknown when (or how) Ganesha Chaturthi was first observed, the festival has been publicly celebrated in Pune since the era of Shivaji (1630–1680, founder of the Maratha Empire). After the start of the British Raj, the Ganesha festival lost state patronage and became a private family celebration in Maharashtra until its revival by Indian freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak. The British Empire, after 1870 out of fear of seditious assemblies, had passed a series of ordinances that banned public assembly for social and political purposes of more than 20 people in British India, but exempted religious assembly for Friday mosque prayers under pressure from the Indian Muslim community. Tilak believed that this effectively blocked the public assembly of Hindus whose religion did not mandate daily prayers or weekly gatherings, and he leveraged this religious exemption to make Ganesh Chaturthi to circumvent the British colonial law on large public assembly. He was the first to install large public images of Ganesha in pavilions in Bombay Presidency, and other celebratory events at the festival. In 1893, Tilak helped expand Ganesh Chaturthi festival into a mass community event and a hidden means for political activism, intellectual discourse, poetry recitals, plays, concerts, and folk dances.Tilak recognized Ganesha's appeal as "the god for everybody", he chose Ganesha as the god that bridged "the gap between Brahmins and non-Brahmins", thereby building a grassroots unity across them to oppose British colonial rule.
Importance of Ganesh Festival
Ganesh Chaturthi , also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi is a Hindu festival celebrating the birth of Ganesha. A ten-day festival, it starts on the fourth day of Hindu Lunisolar calendar month Bhadrapada, which typically falls in the months of August or September of the Gregorian calendar. The festival is marked with the installation of Ganesha clay idols privately in homes, or publicly on elaborate pandals (temporary stages). Observations include chanting of Vedic hymns and Hindu texts such as Ganapati Upanishad, prayers and vrata (fasting). Ganesh or Ganapati is the elephant-headed god of wisdom, son of Parvati and Shiva. He is the deity of prosperity. He is also the deity of learning. He is worshipped in the beginning of any good work. So people bring idols of Ganesh home and worship them with the great devotion during the festival. There are public celebrations at street corners and public places. Musical concerts, plays and other cultural programs are also held during these days.
Celebration of Ganpati Festival
Public preparations for the festivities begin months in advance. Local Mandapa or Pandal's are usually funded either from donations by local residents or hosted by businesses or community organizations. The making of the Murti in Maharashtra usually begins with "Padya pooja" or worshipping the feet of Lord Ganesh. The Murti's are brought to "pandals" on the day or a day before the festival begins. The pandals have elaborate decoration and lighting. At home, the festival preparation includes purchases such as puja items or accessories a few days in advance and booking the ganesh murti as early as a month beforehand (from local artisans). The murti is brought home either a day before or on the day of the ganesh chaturthi itself. Families decorate a small, clean portion of the house with flowers and other colourful items before installing the idol. When the Murti is installed, it and its shrine are decorated with flowers and other materials. On the day of the festival, The ceremonial installation of the clay murti (idol) is done along with chans of holy mantras and pooja including bhajans during a certain auspicious period of the day. Family traditions differ about when to end the celebration. Domestic celebrations end after 1 1⁄2, 3, 5, 7 or 11 days. At that time the Murti is ceremoniously brought to a body of water (such as a lake, river or the sea) for immersion. The processions are long, crowded and colourful. People dance and sing. They are happy and excited. They shout. 'Ganapati Bappa Morya. Pudhchya varshi lavkar yaa.' It means 'O Lord Ganesha, we bid goodbye to you now, but do come back soon next year.'
During the ten day Ganesh Festival, Gauri Pooja is performed in many homes. Lord Ganesha's idol is brought home on Bhadrapada Shuddha Chaturthi(forth day). The celebration of Gauri comes after three days, which is the eighth day of the month Bhadrapada. Some people worship & install Gauris with Lord Ganesha. Gauri is another name of Goddess Parvati. Goddess Parvati or Gauri is worshiped in Jain's as 'Yakshini'. In the state Maharashtra(a state in India) Gauri is worshiped in four different ways:
- Chaitra Gauri - which is worshiped in the month of Chaitra.
- Mangala Gauri - which is worshiped & celebrated in the month of Shravan.
- Hartalika - which is worshiped & celebrated on the third lunar day in the month of Bhadrapada.(on eve of Ganesh Chaturthi)
- Jeshtha Gauri - which is worshiped & celebrated on the eighth lunar day in the month of Bhadrapada.
The invocation(Avahana) of Gauri is done on the Bhadrapada Shuddha Ashtami. Which is the Anuradha asterism(nakshatra). The Gauri is worshiped on Jeshtha asterism & immersed on the Mula asterism. In Maharashtra the Gauri pooja is celebrated for three days. This celebration is known to be as the Upasana of Gauri & MahaLasksmi.(Goddess of power & wealth). Gauri Pooja is performed differently according to the regions of Maharashtra. Three main types of performing the Gauri pooja are Mukhavathyachya Gauri(the idol having the face of metal or clay), Khadyachya Gauri(worshipping five stones as Gauri) & Terdyachya Gauri(worshiping the tree/branch of Balsam/Terda as Gauri). Some people worship pictures of Gauri.