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Ganesha Chaturthi, the great Ganesha festival, also known as 'Vinayak Chaturthi' or 'Vinayaka Chavithi' is celebrated by Hindus around the world as the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the god of wisdom and prosperity on the fourth day of the moons bright fortnight, or period from new moon in the lunar month of Bhadrapada. Lord Ganesha or Ganpati is one of the most popular deities in the Hindu religion. It is worshiped by both Shaivites and Vaishnavites. Even Buddhists and Jains have faith for Ganpati. He is considered to be an avatar of both Shiva and Vishnu.

The celebrations of Ganesh Chaturthi continue for five, seven, or ten days. Some even stretch it to twenty one days, but then the most popularly celebrated. In the tradition of the right hand path the first day is the most important. In the left hand path tradition the final day is most important.
Centuries ago during a war between the Gods and the Demons, Lord Shiva was away for a long time. His wife, Goddess Parvati, afraid of being alone for an extended period used her divine powers and created a son, Ganesh, and gave him the responsibility of protecting the house. When Lord Shiva and his army, returned victorious to his home, Parvati was in her bath, and Ganesh had been strictly instructed not to allow anyone in. Angered by Ganesh's refusal to allow him in to the house, Lord Shiva and his army chopped off the boy's head. When Parvati came out of her bath, she was shocked and grieved to see her son dead. Lord Shiva, to pacify, her proclaimed that the head of Ganesh would be replaced by that of the first creature that came up the hill. As luck would have it the first visitor to the hill was an elephant and his head was promptly cut off and placed on that of Lord Ganesh, and life was restored to the son of Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati. To pacify his wife further and compensate for the act of killings own son, Lord Shiva bestowed upon Ganesh the powers of a God and blessed him that henceforth no activity will begin without invoking your name and blessings. Since then, it is said, no new venture - the inauguration of accompany, the opening of a shop, the foundation of a building, entering a new home - is deemed complete by Hindus without a Ganesh puja.

  Another tale tells of how one day the Gods decided to choose their leader and a race was to be held between the brothers- Kartikeya and Ganesh. Whoever took three rounds of the earth first would be made the Ganaadhipati or the leader. Kartikeya seated on a peacock as his vehicle, started off for the test. Ganesh was given a rat, which moved swiftly. Ganesh realized that the test was not easy, but he would not disobey his father. He reverently paid obeisance to his parents and went around them three times and thus completed the test before Kartikeya. He said, “my parents pervade the whole universe and going around them, is more than going round the earth." Everybody was pleasantly surprised to hear Ganesha's logic and intelligence and hence he came to be known as the Ganaadhipati or leader, now referred to as Ganpati. There is also a story behind the symbolic snake, rat and the singular tusk.

During one of his birthdays, His mother, Parvati, cooked for him twenty-one types of delicious food and a lot of sweet porridge. Ganesha ate so much that even his big belly could not contain it. Mounting his little mouse, he embarked on his nightly rounds. His mouse suddenly stumbled upon seeing a huge snake. To adjust His belly, Ganesha put the snake on as a belt around his stomach. All of a sudden, he heard laughter emanating from the sky.
 He looked up and saw the moon mocking him. Ganesha infuriated, broke off one of his tusks and hurled it at the moon. Parvati, seeing this, immediately cursed the moon that whoever looks at it on Ganesh Chaturthi will be accused of a wrong doing. The symbology behind the mouse and snake and Ganesha's big belly and its relationship to the moon on his birthday is highly philosophic. The whole cosmos is known to be the belly of Ganesha. Parvati is the primordial energy. The seven realms above, seven realms below and seven oceans, are inside the cosmic belly of Ganesha, held together by the cosmic energy (kundalini ) symbolized as a huge snake which Ganesha ties around Him. The mouse is nothing but our ego. Ganesha, using the mouse as a vehicle, exemplifies the need to control our ego. One who has controlled the ego has Ganesha consciousness or God-consciousness.

In Hindu mythology Lord Ganesha is known as the lord of beginnings and as the lord of obstacle remover. Hence all auspicious occasions and religious functions begin by invoking his blessings. According to Hindu mythology anyone who reveres Lord Ganesha before starting any religious occasion or marriage ceremony receives his blessings which help in a successful culmination of the occasion. Lord Ganesha is also associated with commerce and traders till dates seek his blessings before starting any new venture.
On the day of the Ganesh festival itself, sweets - especially laddoos and sugary modaks, which are a favorite of the God's -- are distributed (and consumed) and Ganesh temples are crowded with devotees who participate in the worship of the deity.
When all the festivities are over, the idols which have been worshipped over the past ten days are taken out in a grand procession. During this procession the much-adored God is hoisted on willing shoulders, or rides in open trucks and carriages. Accompanied by fireworks displays, beating drums and the sound of thousands of voices singing devotional songs, the idols are ritually immersed in a nearby sea, lake or river. The immersion ceremony, which is known as the 'visarjan', marks the end of the festivities. The people dance with great enthusiasm and singing rents the air, urging the god to return post haste the next year.

"Ganpati bapa, mouriya! Pudcha varshi, laukar ya!" Hail Lord Ganesha, please return soon next year.

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