Ganesh Chaturthi also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi (Vinayaka Chaturthi) is the Hindu festival that reveres god Ganesha. A ten-day festival, it starts on the fourth day of Hindu luni-solar calendar month Bhadrapada, which typically falls in Gregorian months of August or September. The festival is marked with installation of Ganesha clay idols privately in homes, or publicly on elaborate pandals (temporary stage). Observations include chanting of Vedic hymns and Hindu texts such as Ganapati Upanishad, prayers and vrata (fasting). Offerings and prasada from the daily prayers, that is distributed from the pandal to the community, include sweets such as modaka believed to be a favorite of the elephant-headed deity. The festival ends on the tenth day after start, wherein the idol is carried in a public procession with music and group chanting, then immersed in nearby water body such as a river or ocean, thereafter the clay idol dissolves and Ganesha is believed to return to Mount Kailasha to Parvati and Shiva.
There are four main rituals during the festival – Pranapratishhtha – the process of infusing the deity into a murti or idol, Shhodashopachara – 16 forms of paying tribute to Ganesha, Uttarpuja – Puja after which the idol could be shifted after it’s infusion, Ganpati Visarjan – immersion of the Idol in the river.
The festival remembers Ganesha’s birthday, and celebrates him as the god of good beginnings, prosperity and obstacle remover. It is observed throughout India, especially as a public event in the western states of India such as Maharashtra, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh. At public venues, along with the reading of texts and group feasting, athletic and martial arts competitions are held.
The festival was celebrated as a public event since the time of Maratha King Shivaji. the festival became a public event later, in 1892 when Bhausaheb Laxman Javale ( also known as Bhau Rangari), installed the first sarvajanik (public) Ganesha idol in Pune. In 1893, the Indian freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak praised the celebration of sarvajanik Ganesha utsav in his newspaper, Kesari, and dedicated his efforts to launch the annual domestic festival into a large, well-organised public event. Tilak recognized Ganesha’s appeal as “the god for everybody”, and according to Robert Brown, he chose Ganesha as the god that bridged “the gap between Brahmins and non-Brahmins”, thereby building a grassroots unity across them to oppose British colonial rule.
Public Preparations for the festival begins months ahead. They are usually funded by local residents, businesses and community organizations. The idols are brought to “pandals” or temporary structures usually 15–20 days before. The pandals have elaborate decoration and lighting.
At home the festival begins with the purchase and then the ceremonial installation of a clay murti (idol). Families decorate a small, clean corner with flowers and other colourful items before installing the idol. When the idol is installed, it and its shrine are decorated with flowers and other materials.
The food offerings to Ganesha include 21 modaka, a type of wrapped dessert. This is also the prasada to the community.