Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the holy festivals of the Hindus. It is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Lord Ganesha who's considered to be the god of prosperity and wisdom. Ganesh Chaturthi usually starts on the Shukla Chaturthi in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada and continues for 10 days, thus ending on the Ananta Chaturdashi. It is also known as Vinayak Chaturthi.
Lord Ganesha is considered to be the son of Shiva and Parvati.
Ganesh Chaturthi has been celebrated since the days of the Satavahana, Chalukya, and Rashtrakuta rulers. In Maharashtra, where the festival is popularly celebrated with a lot of fun and enthusiasm, Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja started the worship of Lord Ganesha. Even the Peshwas worshipped Lord Ganesha who was their family deity.
For many years, the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi remained a family affair until the Indian nationalist and social reformer, Bal Gangadhar Tilak revived Lord Ganesha's worship into a grand public celebration. Tilak realized that this festival was celebrated by the upper class as well as the lower ranks of the society. So, during the freedom struggle, the need to bring together all classes of the society against the British made him understand the significance of this festival. He popularized this festival so as to get rid of the differences between the Brahmins and non-Brahmins and build unity among them. Tilak emphasized on the fact that Ganesh Chaturthi was a festival for every social class.
Tilak organized the Ganesh Chaturthi festival as a social and religious gathering by using large idols and making plans to immerse the deity on the tenth day in a grand scale.
There were cultural performances held during this festival, such as dance dramas, musical concerts, poetry recitations, and debates. At a time when social and political gatherings were not allowed by the British, the Ganesh Chaturthi gave people of all castes and communities the opportunity to know each other.
Since then this festival has been celebrated with great enthusiasm all over India, especially in Maharashtra. However, with Indian gaining independence from the British rule, the Ganesh Chaturthi has actually transformed into a national festival. Now, it is widely celebrated in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and other parts of India.
Lord Ganesha is a symbol of auspiciousness, wealth, good luck and prosperity. His image is a composite of elephant and man with each part having its own significance. The elephant head represents great strength. The human form is a symbol of wisdom and intelligence. Lord Ganesha's mouse represents presence of mind. The four arms of Lord Ganesha depict the four directions of space. To all his devotees, Ganesha remains as the most important God; he is the universe.
The human body of Ganesha represents the "tvam" whereas his elephant head symbolizes the "tat". Hence, the combination of these two (the body of Lord Ganesha) represents the highest reality or the Brahman. Lord Ganesha's ears resemble winnowing baskets. Just as one separates grain and dirt, one should also learn to distinguish the real (Brahman) from the unreal (maya) by listening to the scriptures from his Guru.
Lord Ganesha was created out of the divine essence of Parvati. This makes us realize that we are all created with the same essence or spirit, the only difference being that we are born in different forms.
Even though Lord Ganesha is the manifested form of something which is divine and holy, yet the formless divine is always present. This formless spirit destroys all differences we have in our forms. So, the celebration of Lord Ganesha reminds us of the fact that we may worship the divine having a form, but we should not forget that there is a formless reality as well. It is the manifested form of Lord Ganesha which is immersed in water once the Ganesh Chaturthi pooja is over. But we do keep in mind the divine Lord in his formless reality.
Lord Ganesha resides in everything we see and experience. He is considered to operate invisibly, concealed by maya; he gets rid of all obstacles that come our way. That is why he is said to be the “Vigneshwara” or the remover of all obstacles. He is said to fight the evil and bring good luck and success to one and all! So, let us all pray to Lord Ganesha on this Ganesh Chaturthi and seek his blessings which will help us overcome our problems and bring peace, happiness, and success in our lives.