Ganesha Chaturthi in most places in India is a day to invoke Ganesha, the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. On this day, devotees worship Ganesha idols, perform the aarti and offer prasad of fruits and sweets, especially modak, which is considered to be the favourite of Lord Ganesha. In several places, clay idols of Ganesha, big and small, are made months in advance and thousands of devotees take them home to worship. It is customary to immerse these idols in water once the festivities are over with a prayer requesting the god to visit his devotees again the following year.
Ganesha Chaturthi is especially popular in Maharashtra, where the festival was invoked by the Maratha ruler Shivaji and then reinstated by political thinker and freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak. The festivities here last for about 10 days. Ganesha or Ganpati is welcomed into homes and massive pandals in the form of beautiful clay idols. In fact, there are several pandals in Mumbai, which compete against one another, by setting up larger and more impressive idols; there are also prizes to be won for the best pandal. It is a time for devotion and prayer with individual households organising an evening aarti with songs and hymns. Women dress up in the best of their saris and jewellery and make beautiful rangolis outside their homes. This is also a time for family gatherings, visiting friends, relatives and neighbours.
An idol of Lord Ganesha being taken for immersion
The idol immersion days are the first, third, seventh and tenth days. The immersion ceremony is another grand affair where devotees carry the idol in joyous processions accompanied by thumping music and dancing to the beats of the dhol. Devotees throw gulal at one another and perform a final aarti before immersing the idol in a water body like a lake or sea. The Ganpati festival in Maharashtra, especially Mumbai, is equivalent to the Durga Puja celebrations in Kolkata, West Bengal.
This is one religious festival that is celebrated with equal fervor in India and abroad. The festivities among the Indian population in UK, USA and Canada is well known. The Hindu community in London and Liverpool organise puja pandals, prayers and prasad for devotees. This festival is particularly popular in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia as well as in Vancouver in Canada.