Ganesh Chaturdhi or Ganesh Chaviti or Vinayaka Chaturdhi as the festival is called, is the first among all the Hindu festivals celebrated every year. It falls on the fourth day after the newmoon day (Shukla I’aksha Chaturdi) in the Telugu month of Bhadrapada. It is celebrated throughout India by all Hindus. Lord Ganesh is known by different names. Vighneswara, Ganapathi, Gajamukha, Vakradanta, Modakahasta – each describing the Lord in a different way. There is a story about the birth of Lord Gahesh. One day Mata Parvati wanted to take a bath. She made an idol of a boy and blessed it with life and asked him to stand guard over the entrance.
Lord Siva wanted to enter the gate and the boy objected. Lord Shiva got angry and cut off the boy’s head. When Mata Parvati came to know of it, she was upset. Lord Siva had to order the picking of some head available nearby to be attached to the dead boy’s body. The Ganas (Servants) of Lord Siva found the head of an elephant and brought it. Lord Siva attached the elephant’s head to the body of the dead boy and gave back life to him. Thus came to life the Gajanana with an elephant’s head.
Ganesh is the God of wisdom (Buddhi). He is the head of all Ganas. So he is called Ganadhipa or Ganesh. He rides on a rat: so he is called Mooshika Vahana. He is the remover of all obstacles (Vighnas). Hence he is called Vighneswara. He fought a battle with a demon Mooshikeswara and killed him. He removed one of his trunks. So he is called Vakrandanta. He is fond of sweet rice cakes (Modakas). So he is called Modakahasta. He has innumerable names. Lord Ganesh looks peculiar with his elephant heaj, large belly, broken tusk, and a rat for a ride. But he is worshipped as Buddhi, Lord of wisdom (Siddhi) and Vighnavinayaka, the remover of all obstancels. There is no Hindu temple without Lord Ganesh, No pooja can be done by a Hindu without first praying to Lord Ganesh. No work or auspicious function can start without a prayer to Lord Ganesh.
On Vinayaka Chaviti day every Hindu family brings home a clay idol of Lod Ganesh. The house is cleaned and decorated. All the members of the family take oil bath, and put on new clothes. Lord Ganesh is placed in a pandal, well-decorated with flowers and leaves. All kinds of fruits, and his special favourites such as rice and cakes are offered along with rich dishes to Lord Ganesh. Children offer special prayers by reading ‘Vinayaka Dandakam’. After prayer the idol is kept in the house for three days and each day prayers and offerings are made. On the third day the idol is taken out for immersion in a tank.
Ganesh festival gained social importance from the days of Tilak. It has now become a social function. Big idols are installed in each street corner in every town and village. The festival continues for nine days with different cultural shows in the evening. People gather for common prayers and offerings are made. It has helped to unite all the Hindus living in different parts of the country. On the ninth day the idols are taken out in a grand procession to be immersed either in sea or a river or in a tank. In the procession different types of folklore and dances are enacted. It is a day of great rejoicing. Youth enjoy the festivities greatly. It is believed by the Hindus that if Ganesh puja is not performed on Chaviti day and one sees the Chaviti moon, he will get into unnecessary blame. Every Hindu believes that a prayer to Lord Ganesh is a must everyday.