One of the most widely celebrated festivals in India is the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi, or the holiday which marks the birthday of Lord Ganesh. Ganesh is the elephant headed deity who is the son of Lord Shiva and his wife Parvati. It’s the beginning of a joyous ten day festival in India. This festival commences in the Vedic lunar month of Bhadrapada on the fourth phase (chaturthi) of the waxing Moon. Ganesh Chaturthi 2013 falls on September 8 in the U.S. and the U.K. It falls on September 9 in the rest of the world. The calendar which calculates Vedic holidays and festivals can be found on this website.
Traditionally in India, Vedic astrology or Jyotish horoscopes are prepared for children at birth. Most parents name their child based on the placement of the child’s lunar nakshatra (star). Each sound of the Sanskrit language has a vibrations which is linked to a specific placement of the Moon in Vedic astrology. By naming a child according to the sound resonating in their horoscope, it is thought that the child can live more in harmony with their environment. Thus, a horoscope is necessary to ascertain the appropriate phoneme for the child. At the top of every Vedic astrology horoscope is a drawing of Shri Ganesh, He is the remover of obstacles and invoked at the onset of any endeavor.
In the Vedic cosmology, there are three primary male deities: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Brahma is the creator, Vishnu the sustainer, and Shiva the transformer. Shiva removes that which has outlived its usefulness so that it may take new form and rise anew.
Shiva’s wife is Parvati. According to Vedic folklore, Shiva used to spend very extended periods of time in deep meditation on Mt. Kailash. Parvati grew very lonely during one of Shiva’s long retreats. She decided to fashion a son out of clay for herself. She named her son Ganesh (also spelled Ganesha).
Parvati and Ganesh happily spent their days together. She cherished more and more as the years went by. One day, Parvati decided to take her ritual bath and told her son to stand watch over the door and not let anyone enter. Shortly after she entered her bath, Lord Shiva finally returned home. He was eager to see his wife.
Obviously Shiva was unaware of his son. He asked where Parvati was and Ganesh replied that she was taking her ritual bath and could not be disturbed. Shiva was adamant about seeing his wife, but Ganesh refused to yield. Shiva grew increasingly angry and eventually he took his sword and chopped off Ganesh’s head.
When Parvati heard the commotion and saw what happened to her son, she was inconsolable. She informed Shiva that he had killed his own son. Shiva vowed to bring Ganesh back to life. Shiva told his men to go out and bring back the head of the first creature that they saw. His men returned with an elephant’s head and Shiva placed the head on Ganesh. It is said that the beheaded elephant received moksha.
A few months before the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi, artisans prepare clay figures of Ganesh. He is depicted in many poses, though he’s most often featured as seated. These figures can be held in the palm of your hand or they can stand several feet tall. Indians install the Ganesh figure into their homes and perform rituals to it. On this holiday of Ganesh Chaturthi, special offerings of sweets or prasad (blessed offering) are prepared to propitiate Ganesh, since he is known to love sweets. They are usually steam cooked sweets known as modak, which are dumplings made from rice or wheat flour stuffed with coconut, jaggery, and sesame seeds. Special mantras to Ganesh are also chanted. The Ganesh festival is most widely celebrated in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
Ganesh is worshiped for 10 days, from Ganesh Chaturthi to the day known as Ananta Chaturdashi. Anantachidrupamayam is another of the 108 names of Ganesh. It translates as the one who personifies infinite consciousness. Chaturdashi is the 14th phase of the waxing Moon in Vedic astrology. Then on the 11th day, the statue is removed from the home and the owners march with the statue held high and form a long, festive procession down the streets. The statue is carried to the river and ritualistically immersed in the water as Vedic mantras as chanted. In the Marathi language, this ritual is called Ganesh Visarjan. It is believed that Ganesh will remove any obstacles or obstruction in the lives of his worshipers.
The prefix Ga connotes buddhi or the intellect and na is symbolic for vijnana or spiritual wisdom. The suffix –isha means the lord. Pati means mate or partner. Ganesh has 108 names; one is Vighneshwara or the remover of obstacles. Another appellation is Vinakaya, which translates as remover or the supreme lord. This holiday is also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi.
The Ganesh festival is most widely celebrated in the Indian state of Maharashtra. How will you be celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi 2013?