gananaam tvaa ganapatim havaamahe kavim kaveenaam upama
jyeshtharaajam brahmanaam brahmanaspata Aa nah shrunvannootibhih
(Rig Veda 2.23.1)
The great Vedic scholar Shri M.P.Pandit of Sri.Aurobindo Ashram, Pondichery translated the above verse as follows:
gananaam tvaa ganapatim=The leader of the host of mantras
havaamahe=We invoke thee
kavim kaveenaam=A superb poet amongst poets
upama shravastamam= Who causes the hearing of divine inspiration
jyeshtharaajam brahmanaam brahmanaspata= The leader, the Lord of Chants
Aa nah shrunvantu=May He hear us and
ootibhih seeda saadanam=May He manifest Himself in us with His protections
Ganesh Chaturthi or “Vinayak Chaturthi” is one of the most important and hoary festivals celebrated by the Hindus. It is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Bhadrapada, starting on the shukla chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon period). Typically the day falls sometime between August 20 and September 15. The festival lasts for 10 days, ending on Ananta Chaturdashi, and is traditionally celebrated as the birthday of LORD GANESHA.
According to Hindu mythology, Lord Ganesha is the son of Shiva (The God of Destruction in the Hindu Holy Trinity of Creator-Preserver-Destroyer) and Parvati (Shiva’s consort). The cutest and most lovable Indian God, Ganesha or Ganpati has the head of an elephant on which rests an elegant tiara, four podgy hands joined to a sizeable belly with each hand holding its own symbolic object – a trishul or a trident in one, an ankush or goad (made from his very own broken tooth) in another, a lotus in the third and a rosary (which is sometimes replaced by modak, his favourite sweet) in the fourth. Revered as the deity of auspiciousness and wisdom, as the Divine remover of all obstacles/bottlenecks, Lord Ganesha is also famous for being a trickster, with a profound sense of humour.
Lord Ganesh was born on the fourth day (chaturthi) of the bright fortnight of the Hindu lunar month of Magh. Since then, the association between Ganesh and Chaturthi has become proverbial, legendary and eternal. Thus the festival dedicated to the worship of Lord Ganesha on Chaturthi day is named as Ganesh Chaturthi.
There is an interesting tale about the birth of Ganesha. It is believed that once when Parvati was bathing, she created a human figure from a paste which was an amalgam of an unguent and a balm, gave it life and charged it with the responsibility of guarding the door while she was bathing. After a long period of meditation on Mountain Kailash (Lord Shiva’s abode), Shiva chose that very moment to drop by to see his better half, but was abruptly stopped by the human figure which Parvati had created and installed at the door for keeping guard. Outraged by the cheek of this stranger, Shiva cut off his head only to discover moments later that he had killed Parvati’s son! For fear of enraging his wife, Shiva immediately dispatched his ganas (attendants) to get him the head of the first living creature they could find in the immediate neighborhood. Well, the first living creature that happened to be there in the vicinity was an elephant. As instructed by Lord Shiva, the head of the elephant was chopped off and brought back to Shiva, who placed it on the body of Parvati’s son, bringing him back to life instantaneously in the twinkling of an eye. This elephant-headed god was welcomed into the first family of the Hindu heavens and named Ganesha or Ganapati, which literally means the chief of the ganas, or the attendants of Shiva.
Ganesha is the foremost god of the Hindu pantheon. This brave guardian of the door to Parvati’s bath is worshipped today as the most auspicious God for launching all new ventures. We can see him carefully guarding entrances to temples and homes, peeping out of calendars and happily gracing marriages and all such auspicious occasions.
No one knows when and how Ganesh Chaturthi came to be celebrated. But according to the historian Shri Rajwade, the earliest Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations can be traced back to the times of the rule of dynasties such as the Satavahanas, the Rashtrakutas and the Chalukyas.
Historical records reveal that Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations were started in Maharashtra by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja, the great Maratha ruler, in the 17th century to promote Hindu culture and foster Hindu nationalism. And it has continued ever since to this day. There are also references in modern Maratta history to similar celebrations during the regime of the Peshwas. Lord Ganapati was the family deity of the Peshwas. After the end of Peshwa rule in 1818, Ganesh Chaturthi remained a family affair in Maharashtra till 1892.
Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1920) saw how Lord Ganesha was worshipped by the upper stratum as well as the rank and file of Maharashtra. This great visionary who declared “Swaraj is my birthright” fully realized the cultural importance of this deity and popularised Ganesha Chaturthi as a National Festival “to bridge the gap between the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins and to find an appropriate context in which to build a new unity at the grassroots level between them”. Tilak also understood that without such a social unity, it was not easy to drive the British out of Maharashtra or India. For creating such an fraternal atmosphere in Maharashtra, Tilak chose Lord Ganesha as a rallying point for Indian protest against British rule in 1893 because of His wide appeal as “THE GOD FOR EVERYMAN”.
From 1893, Tilak began to organize the Ganesh Utsav as a social and religious function. It was he who inaugurated the tradition of installing large public images of Ganesha on public platforms/pavilions and established the tradition of their immersion into a river, a lake or the sea on the tenth day. This grand Ganesh Festival facilitated enthusiastic community participation and vigorous involvement in the form of learned discourses, dance dramas, poetry recital, musical concerts, debates, etc. In short the Ganesh Festival became a focal point for common people of all castes and communities, for getting together at the same public place at a time when all social and political gatherings were forbidden by the British Government in India. Thus Ganesh Festivel became very popular in Maharashtra between 1893 and 1905 and after 1905 as India’s freedom Movement picked up, it became an all India festival and remains so even today. With the independence of India in 1947, it was proclaimed as a national festival.
In almost every town and village in India, statues of Lord Ganesa are made with great devotion and fervour and installed at public places at least two days prior to the auspicious day of Ganesh Chaturthi. This year tomorrow—11th September 2010, Saturday-- is Ganesh Chathurthi Day.
Those who live in and around Hyderabad are very familiar with the beautiful Ganesh idols which are installed every year on the eve of Ganesh Chathurthi every year at a small suburban hub called Khairtabad (Telugu: ఖైరతాబాదు) . I have been greatly fascinated by these exquisitely designed and created Ganesh Idols which are more than 40 feet in height. I am presenting below the Ganesh idols of Khairtabad put up during Ganesh Chathurthi from 2004 to 2009.
GANESH CHATHURTHI 2004 GANESH CHATHURTHI 2005
GANESH CHATHURTHI 2006 GANESH CHATHURTHI 2007
GANESH CHATHURTHI 2008 GANESH CHATHURTHI 2009
GANESH CHATHURTHI 2010
Let me conclude with the first verse from Adi Shankara’s Ganesha Pancharatnam
Mudakaraatha Modakam Sada Vimukti Saadhakam
Kalaadharaavatamsakam Vilasiloka Rakshakam
Anaaya Kaika Naayakam Vinasitebha Daityakam
Nataasubhasu Naashakam Namaami Tham Vinaayakam.
The free meaning of the above verse is as follows
I salute that remover of obstacles,
Who has modakas in his hand
Who always bestows salvation
Who wears a part of moon on his head
Who protects this world which is varied,
Who is the leader of those who cannot be lead,
Who is the cause of destruction of asuras,
And who destroys all things which are not good.