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Wishing Everyone Celebrating A Happy Ganesh Chaturthi

Ganesha Chaturthi is the Hindu festival celebrated on the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvat

It is believed that Lord Ganesh bestows his presence on earth for all his devotees during this festival. It is the day when Ganesha was born. Ganesha is widely worshipped as the God of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune and traditionally invoked at the beginning of any new venture or at the start of travel. The festival, also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, (“festival of Ganesha”), is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Bhaadrapada, starting on the shukla chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon period). The date usually falls between 19 August and 20 September. The festival lasts for 10 days, ending on Anant Chaturdashi (fourteenth day of the waxing moon period).

Traditional Ganesha Hindu stories tell that Lord Ganesha was created by Goddess Parvati consort of Lord Shiva. Pravati created Ganesha out of sandalwood paste that she used for her bath and breathed life into the figure. She then set him to stand guard at her door while she bathed. Lord Shiva, who had gone out, returned and as Ganesha didn’t know him , didn’t allow him to enter. Lord Shiva became enraged by this and asked his follower Ganas to teach the child some manners. Ganesha who was very powerful, being born of Parvati, the embodiment of Shakti. He defeated Shiva’s followers and declared that nobody was allowed to enter while his mother was bathing. The sage of heavens , Narada along with the Saptarishis sensed the growing turmoil and went to appease the boy with no results. Angered, the king of Gods, Indra attacked the boy with his entire heavenly army but even they didn’t stand a chance. By then, this issue had become a matter of pride for Parvati and Shiva. Angry Shiva severed the head of the child. Parvati seeing this became enraged. Seeing Parvati in anger Shiva promised that her son will be alive again. The devas searched for the head of dead person facing North. But they found only the head of a dead elephant. They brought the head of the elephant and Shiva fixed it on the child’s body and brought him back to life. Lord Shiva also declared that from this day the boy would be called Ganesha (Gana Isha : Lord of Ganas).

According to the Linga Purana, Ganesha was created by Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati at the request of the Devas for being a Vighnakartaa (obstacle-creator) in the path of Rakshasas and a Vighnahartaa (obstacle-averter) to help the Devas achieve fruits of their hard work.

Two to three months before Ganesh Chaturthi, artistic clay models of Lord Ganesha are made for sale by specially skilled artisans. They are beautifully decorated and depict Lord Ganesh in vivid poses. The size of these statues may vary from 3/4 of an inch to over 70 feet.

The tallest Ganesha Idol made which stood 117 feet tall was situated in the city of Visakhapatnam in 2012.

Ganesh Chaturthi starts with the installation of these Ganesh statues in colorfully decorated homes and specially erected temporary structures mandapas (pandals) in every locality. The pandals are erected by the people or a specific society or locality or group by collecting monetary contributions. The pandals are decorated specially for the festival, either by using decorative items like flower garlands, lights, etc. or are theme based decorations, which depict religious themes or current events.

The priest, usually clad in red or white dhoti and uttariyam (Shawl), then with the chanting of mantras invokes the presence of Ganesha using the statue as a channel, or body for his energy. This ritual is the Pranapratishhtha. After this the ritual called as Shhodashopachara (16 ways of paying tribute) follows. Coconut, jaggery, 21 modakas, 21 durva (trefoil) blades of grass and red flowers are offered. The statue is anointed with red unguent, typically made of kumkum and sandalwood paste. Throughout the ceremony, Vedic hymns from the Rig Veda, the Ganapati Atharva Shirsha Upanishad, and the Ganesha stotra from the Narada Purana are chanted.

Some homes buy their own small clay statue, and after 1,3,5,7 or 11 days immerse it in a bucket or tub at home, so as not to pollute public lakes or rivers. After a few days the clay is used in the home garden.

The main sweet dish during the festival is the modak. A modak is a dumpling made from rice flour/wheat flour with a stuffing of fresh or dry-grated coconut, jaggery, dry fruits and some other condiments. It is either steam-cooked or fried. Another popular sweet dish is the karanji, which is similar to the modak in composition and taste but has a semicircular shape.

Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in the UK by the migrant Hindu population as well as the large number of Indians residing there. The Hindu culture and Heritage Society, UK – a Southall based organisation celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi for the first time in London in 2005 at The Vishwa Hindu Temple. The Idol was immersed in the river Thames at Putney Pier. Another celebration organised by an Gujarati group has been celebrated in the Southend-on-Sea which attracts over 18000 devotees. Annual celebrations also take place on the River Mersey at Liverpool.
On the final day of the Ganesh festival, thousands of plaster idols are immersed into water bodies by devotees. These increase the level of acidity in the water and the content of heavy metals. Several non-governmental and governmental bodies have been addressing this issue. Amongst the solutions proposed are as follows:
  • Return to the traditional use of natural clay idols and immerse the icon in a bucket of water at home.
  • Use of a permanent icon made of stone and brass, used every year and a symbolic immersion only.
  • Recycling of plaster idols to repaint them and use them again the following year.
  • Ban on the immersion of plaster idols into lakes, rivers and the sea.
  • Creative use of other biodegradable materials such as papier-mâché to create Ganesh idols.
  • Encouraging people to immerse the idols in tanks of water rather than in natural water bodies.

To handle religious sentiments sensitively, some temples and spiritual groups have taken up the cause.

Southwark Carers Would Like To Wish Everyone Celebrating A Happy Ganesh Chaturthi.

 

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