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.He possesses the head of an elephant on which there's a tiara. His four hands hold a symbolic object like the trishul or trident. Other symbolic objects carried by Lord Ganesha are a goad or ankush and a lotus. Lord Ganesha is known as the deity of wisdom and auspiciousness and he is said to have a great sense of humor as well.
The association between Lord Ganesha and the Chaturthi is due to the fact that he was born on the 4th day of the fortnight of the Hindu lunar month of Magh. Hence, his birth anniversary celebration is known as Ganesh Chaturthi.
An interesting story behind Lord Ganesha's birth is that his mother Parvati had once created a human figure and instilled life in it, thus asking it to guard the door while she had gone on a bath. During this time, Lord Shiva came to see his wife after a prolonged period of meditation at Mountain Kailash. When stopped by the human figure from entering the house, Lord Shiva was outraged and cut off the former's head.
Very soon, Shiva came to know that the human figure was created by Parvati. So, he sent his attendants to look for the head of the first living object they could find. The attendants found an elephant and cut off its head to place on the human figure's body so as to bring him back to life. This is why Lord Ganesha is seen to have an elephant head. He is also known as Ganpati or chief of the "Ganas" or Lord Shiva's attendants.
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.