Ganesha Chathurthi Ganesha's Birthday
Ganesha, the remover of obstacles was born on the fourth tithi of the Shukla paksha in the month of Bhadra. Bhadra month starts with the new Moon in Leo during August/ September. Ganesha is the son of Shiva and Gauri. Ganapati is also known as Ganesha, Vinayaka, Vighneshwara etc. Ganapati was born of the four great elements, earth, water, fire and air. He represents the fifth element Aakash that protects the people.
There are many stories regarding the birth of Ganesha and how he came to have the elephant?s head. According to Varaha Purana, Shiva created him from his laughter. He was a beautiful boy, shining and luminous in the sky, just like Shiva. When Gauri, Shiva?s wife saw baby Ganesha, she forgot about Shiva. Shiva was so angry with his wife for ignoring him that he cursed this glorious child to have a face like an elephant with a protruding belly and a belt of snakes. His anger also created many Ganas in the image of Ganesha, who fell to earth. Each Gana was accomplished and bright. Gana means multitude, the public, and the followers. Ganas began disturbing the balance on earth so the Devas requested Brahma to get someone to control them. Brahma asked Shiva to make the elephant headed boy Ganapati, the leader of the ganas. Ganapati also got the blessing that his name will be invoked at the start of any prayer. He has the ability to control the masses and he helps them by clearing all obstacles in their path so that they can accomplish what they desire. Ganesha clears the way for the devotee getting his hearts desire - whether it is spiritual or material.
Ganesha Chathurthi is celebrated annually in a big way in Mumbai, Hyderabad, the States of Maharashtra and Andhra pradesh. It traditionally signals the end of the monsoon season. The celebrations of Ganesha Chathurthi lasts between four to 10 days with daily rituals and prayers to Ganesha to take away their problems and open new doorways to them, both spiritually and materially. An image of Ganesha in clay is brought into the home, community or temple and established on Ganesha Chathurthi. In Mumbai, the Siddhi Vinayaka Temple leads the celebrations and in many communities huge idols of Ganesha are established. Ganesha is fed with all his favourite foods and there are sixteen foods that are taken for him as a tribute. His favourite food is Modaka, round sweets that are also called laddus. Amid chanting of sacred hymns and elaborate floral decorations, the deity is honoured and fed. If you have chosen to keep the idol at home for four days or ten days, then on the 5th or 11th day the idol is taken either to the sea or to the river amid great celebration. The 11th day is known as Ananda chaturdashi. The idol is immersed in the sea or rivers so that he can go back to his father Shiva on Mount Kailash in the Himalayas. During the stay of Ganesha in the homes, communities or temples, the devotee bring their sorrows and unhappiness to him. As the idol floats away, Ganesha takes away your problems and leaves you lighthearted and open to new experiences.
This is a very special Puja to do and celebrate. I have been able to do this Puja just once in India (As I live away from home and am seldom in India for Ganesha Chathurthi) and kept Ganesha for four days in my home in India. Our family prayed to him three times a day and dedicated our meals to him. After four days, the attachment to the Ganesha idol grew. When we went to the river to float the idol away, all of us were dealing with our attachment to him. Letting go of the idol was like letting go a part of us and it was hard. Watching floating away in the river brought a sense of loss but also peace as we allowed our issues to float away with his image.
To take part in this beautiful festival, one has to go to Mumbai during the Ganesha Chathurthi celebrations where the whole community participates and they sing the hymns, mantras and the popular Mumbai chant ? Ganapati Bappa Morya? Ganesha is my father. The popular deity is loved and indulged and his glory celebrated.
If you are living in outside India and unable to do the Puja at home. You could visit an Indian temple which will be celebrating this auspicious day and doing the Ganapati Puja. You can find out about your local temple from the web or local directories.
If you would like to celebrate Ganesha?s birthday, you can do so by bringing flowers and sweets (special Modaka if available) to your home and chanting the mantras to the image of Ganesha. It is a good idea to hold a satsang; a gathering of like minded people and share food and sweets with them. You can also make donation to the poor and needy on this day. Most important is to use this day to let go of the problems that have accumulated over the past year and symbolically let go of them, let go of any anger, negativity against others and ask Ganesha to carry them away with him and bless you with peace and happiness. If you do this Puja annually, you are getting more and more blessings from Ganesha and many sorrows will go away and the spiritual path ahead becomes clear and without obstacles.
Prayer to Ganesha
Shri Ganeshayam Namamya Ham
Vakratund Mahakaya Surya Koti Samaprabha
Nirvighnam Kurumedeva Sarva Karyeshu Sarvada Ganesha Bija Mantra
Om Gam Ganapataye Namah
— Komilla Sutton