|| Shree Vakratunda Mahakaya Suryakoti Samaprabha Nirvighnam Kuru Me Deva Sarva-Kaaryeshu Sarvada||
Ganesh Chaturthi, the biggest Hindu festival of Goa, is a ten-day celebration to honor Lord Ganesha (the elephant-headed deity). This festival was celebrated within the family until Lokmanya Tilak decided that it should be a grand public celebration to put aside the caste system and bridge religious gaps. People from all religions come together to enjoy the festivities.
Legend has it that Parvati, the mother of Lord Ganesha, created him from the dirt of her body before she went for a bath. She then made him stand guard outside the door and told him not to let anyone enter. Shiva had just returned from his meditation and demanded to enter his home. Ganesha refused to let him near the door. After a brief combat, Shiva severed Ganesha’s head. When Parvati saw her dead son she was furious. Shiva promised her that her son will live again. He returned to the forest and killed the first thing he saw. It was an elephant. He then removed the head of the elephant and placed it on Parvati’s son’s shoulder. He breathed life into the boy and revived him.
Ganesh Chaturthi is the celebration of the birth of Lord Ganesha. The festival is also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi and Ganeshotsav. According to the Hindu calendar, it is celebrated on the fourth day of the bright half of Bhadrapad (corresponds with the months of August/ September according to the Gregorian calendar). Ganesh Chaturthi in Goa predates the Kadamba era. During the time of the Inquisition when the Portuguese were ruling, they had banned all Hindu festivals. The Goan Hindus celebrated the festival anyway in the privacy of their homes. The God is always depicted with a plate of modaks by his feet, a lotus in his hand, and his mode of transport, a rat, by his side.
Ganesh Chaturthi is the biggest festival of Goa, and it is celebrated lavishly. Families travel across the country and sometimes the globe to be together at this time of year. The preparations for this festival begin months in advance. The festival begins at home with the purchase and ceremonial installation of a clay murti (statue). Families decorate a room by putting a matoli (a wooden canopy) adorned with flowers, seasonal vegetables and fruits before God is brought home and placed on an altar. The room is brightly lit with fairy lights adding to the cheerful hues of the decorations. Domestic celebrations end with the immersion of the idol after 1½, 5, 7, 9 or 11 days. The height of the idol ranges from ¾ inch right up to 70 feet (for large community celebrations). The ladies of the house prepare modaks (a sweet resembling a dumpling but stuffed with a mixture of coconut and jaggery (molasses)), nevri (also made with coconut), barfi, besan (gram flour) ladoos, and a few traditional savoury dishes. Family and friends gather around to enjoy a meal together that is served on banana leaves (not all houses serve meals like this). Children Celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi People residing in cities go to their ancestral homes to celebrate this wonderful festival with their relatives and friends. They do pujas and sing artis (devotional hymns) together accompanied with Gumot (percussions made from clay with the monitor lizard skin on both sides. This was changed after the monitor lizard was declared as an endangered species. Rexene has become a substitute for the skin of the monitor lizard.) and taal (cymbals). Some family members get together and make a rangoli (decorative patterns made from coloured dry rice, flour, or flower petals) at the entrance of the house or in the courtyard. Hindu families invite their friends to join in their family celebrations. Children and adults enjoy an array of fireworks.
There are four main rituals during this festival. Pranapratishhtha – infusing the deity into the murti or clay idol. Shhodashopachara – 16 forms of paying tribute to Lord Ganesha. Uttarpuja – puja after which the idol could be shifted after its infusion. This is an emotional puja. Ganapati Visarjan – the immersion of the idol in a water body (river, sea, lake, well, or pond).
If you walk around the main cities of Goa you will see huge idols placed in significant areas. This is known as Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav. You can also buy lucky tickets and take a chance on a lucky draw where you can win anything from a washing machine to a car. Various competitions for best decorated Ganesh, rangoli competition, and fancy dress competitions are also held during this time. The main highlight is sound and light show depicting the Gods of Hinduism.
Ganesh Chaturthi Celebration in Mumbai After Goa, our neighboring state of Maharashtra is where the Ganesh festival is celebrated in its grand form. Apart from the traditional celebrations and decorations, witnessing Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav in the capital city of Mumbai is a special experience. There are pandaals (shamianas) placed all over this beautiful city. Families get together to worship and participate in Artis. The huge idol in Lalbaug famously known as Lalbagcha Raja is breathtaking and the communities get together to worship this deity. Shreemath Dagduseth Halwai Temple in Pune is dedicated to Lord Ganesh and it is a place of pilgrim. Thousands of worshipers flock there to pay homage to their deity so does Shree Siddivinayak Temple in Mumbai and Dodda Ganapathi Temple in Bangalore, Karnataka. This festival is also celebrated with across Western India in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat, and the South Indian states of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu.
Ganeshji Immersion, Goa This day signifies the end of a beautiful celebration. Family and friends gather together to bid Lord Ganesh an emotional adieu. Aartis are performed just before the immersion. One can see large processions making their way to the beach or river front to immerse the statue. The deity is placed in a pickup truck, speakers blast hymns (nowadays it’s EDM (Electronic Dance Music) and people dance around the vehicle, bursting crackers as they move along. It’s definitely worth experiencing this at least once. The devotion and dedication is admirable. After the immersion prasad and fruits are distributed among the people who are present.
Ganesh Chaturthi falls on the 13th of September.
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