Ganesh Chaturthi is also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, is a Hindu festival celebrating the arrival of Lord Ganesh to earth from Kailash Parvat with his mother Goddess Parvati/Gauri. The festival is marked with the installation of Lord Ganesh’s clay murtis privately in homes and publicly by Shri Bal Gangadhar Tilak popularly known as Lokmanya Tilak in Pune in the year 1893 on elaborate pandals (temporary stages). Observations include chanting of Vedic hymns and Hindu texts such as, prayers and vrata (fasting). Offerings and prasāda from the daily prayers, that are distributed from the pandal to the community, include sweets such as modaka as it is believed to be a favourite of Lord Ganesh. The festival ends on the tenth day after start, when the idol is carried in a public procession with music and group chanting, then immersed in a nearby body of water such as a river or sea, called visarjan.. In Mumbai alone, around 150,000 statues are immersed annually.Thereafter the clay idol dissolves and Ganesh is believed to return to Mount Kailash to Parvati and Shiva. The festival celebrates Lord Ganesh as the God of New Beginnings and the Remover of Obstacles as well as the god of wisdom and intelligence and is observed throughout India, especially in the states such as Maharashtra and Goa . Ganesh Chaturthi is also observed in Nepal and by the Hindu diaspora elsewhere such as in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, other parts of the Caribbean, Fiji, Mauritius, South Africa, United States, and Europe. In the Gregorian calendar, Ganesh Chaturthi falls between 22 August and 20 September every year.
At public venues, along with the reading of texts and group feasting, athletic and martial arts competitions are also held.
Although it is unknown when (or how) Ganesh Chaturthi was first observed, the festival has been publicly celebrated in Pune since the era of Shivaji (1630–1680, founder of the Maratha Empire). The Peshwa rulers in the 18th century were devotees of Ganesh and started as a public Ganesh festival in their capital city of Pune during the month of Bhadrapad. After the start of the British Raj, the Ganesh festival lost state patronage and became a private family celebration in Maharashtra until its revival by Indian freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak.
According to others such as Kaur, the festival became a public event later, in 1892 when Bhausaheb Laxman Javale (also known as Bhau Rangari), installed the first sarvajanik (public) Ganesh idol in Pune. In 1893, the Indian freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak praised the celebration of Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav in his newspaper, Kesari, and dedicated his efforts to launch the annual domestic festival into a large, well-organised public event. Tilak recognised Ganesh’s appeal as “the god for everybody” and according to Robert Brown, he chose Ganesh as the god that bridged “the gap between Brahmins and non-Brahmins”, thereby building a grassroots unity across them to oppose British colonial rule.
Other scholars state that the British Empire, after 1870 out of fear of seditious assemblies, had passed a series of ordinances that banned public assembly for social and political purposes of more than 20 people in British India, but exempted religious assembly for Friday mosque prayers under pressure from the Indian Muslim community. Tilak believed that this effectively blocked the public assembly of Hindus whose religion did not mandate daily prayers or weekly gatherings, and he leveraged this religious exemption to make Ganesh Chaturthi to circumvent the British colonial law on large public assembly. He was the first to install large public images of Ganesh in pavilions in Bombay Presidency, and other celebratory events at the festival.
According to Richard Cashman, Tilak recruited and passionately committed himself to god Ganesh after the 1893 Hindu-Muslim communal violence in Bombay and the Deccan riots, when he felt that the British India government under Lord Harris had repeatedly taken sides and not treated Hindus fairly because Hindus were not well organised. In Tilak’s estimate, Ganesh worship and processions were already popular in rural and urban Hindu populations, across social castes and classes in Baroda, Gwalior, Pune and most of the Maratha region in the 18th century. In 1893, Tilak helped expand Ganesh Chaturthi festival into a mass community event and a hidden means for political activism, intellectual discourse, poetry recitals, plays, concerts, and folk dances.
In Goa, Ganesh Chaturthi predates the Kadamba era. The Goa Inquisition had banned Hindu festivals, and Hindus who did not convert to Christianity were severely restricted. However, Hindu Goans continued to practice their religion despite the restrictions. Many families worship Ganesh in the form of patri (leaves used for worshiping Ganesh or other gods), a picture is drawn on paper or small silver idols. In some households Ganesh idols are hidden, a feature unique to Ganesh Chaturthi in Goa due to a ban on clay Ganes idols and festivals by the Jesuits as part of the Inquisition.
How to Celebrate
The primary sweet dish during the festival is Modak. A modak is a dumpling made from rice or wheat flour, stuffed with grated coconut, [jaggery], dried fruits and other condiments and steamed or fried. Another popular sweet dish is the karanji (karjikai in Kannada), similar to modak in composition and taste but in a semicircular shape. This sweet meal is called Nevri in Goa and is synonymous with Ganesh festival amongst the Goans and the Konkani diaspora.
In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana modak, laddu, vundrallu (steamed, coarsely ground rice-flour balls), panakam (a jaggery-, black pepper- and cardamom-flavoured drink), vadapappu (soaked moong lentils) and chalividi (a cooked rice flour and jaggery mixture) are offered to Ganesh. These offerings are known as naivedya, and a plate of modak traditionally holds 21 pieces of the sweet. In Goa, modak and a Goan version of idli(sanna) is popular.
Panchakajjaya is an offering made to Lord Ganesh during this festival in parts of Karnataka. It is a mixture of desiccated coconut, roasted Bengal gram powder, sugar, ghee, and sesame. Different versions of panchakajjaya are made. Roasted Bengal gram, green gram, roasted chana dal(putani) or aval can be used.