Who is Ganesha?
Ganesha is the elephant-headed God of Hindus. He is the Lord of power and wisdom. He is worshipped first in all auspicious occasions, religious worships and festivals. All Tantric and spiritual worship in the Hindu tradition begins with the invocation of Ganesha Stuti (Prayer). Ganesha is the destroyer of evils; remover of all obstacles; sources of all bliss and success in all undertakings. He is also worshipped as the god of education, knowledge, and wealth. Moreover, Ganesha is one of the five prime Hindu deities (Surya, Durga, Vishnu, and Shiva being other four) whose idolatry is glorified everyday as the Panchadeva Puja
Ganesha is the eldest son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati and brother
of Skanda or Kumar Kartikeya. Ganesha is usually seen with four hands;
each one has a special symbolic object in it. One holds a goad, the second
holds an axe made from his broken tusk, the third holds a lotus flower,
and the fourth holds a rosary. Multiple hands symbolize Ganesha's multiple
powers. Lord Ganesha has thousands of names. He is also popularly know as
Ganapati, Vinayaka, Gajanana, Mangalmurti, Vakratunda, Ekadanta, Lambodara,
Vignaraja, Vigneshwara and many more.
Ganesha became the Lord of all existing beings (Gana) after winning a contest from his brother Kumar Kartikeya. The story tells Ganesha and his brother Kumar Kartikeya once had a dispute that who was the elder of the two. The matter was referred to Lord Shiva for final decision. Shiva decided that whoever would make a tour around the world and come back first had the right to be the elder. Kumar Kartikeya flew off at once on his vehicle, the peacock, to make a circuit of the world. Ganesha did not start the race like his brother did, but simply walked around Shiva and Parvati, both his father and mother as the source of all existence; who also represent the entire manifested universe. Lord Shiva was pleased with Ganesha's intelligence and declared him as a winner. He then was blessed as the Supreme God of the universe. Thus; the dispute was settled in favour of Lord Ganesha, who was thereafter acknowledged as the elder of the two brothers
Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated as an occasion or a day on which Lord Ganesha makes his presence on earth for all his devotees. The festival is observed according to the Hindu calendar in the month of Bhaadrapada (around August and September), starting on the shukla chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon period). It is among the most celebrated festivals in Nepal and South India, especially in western states of Maharashtra and Goa where the festival lasts for 10 days, ending on Ananta Chaturdashi.
During the festivals a special puja to the lord Ganesha is performed
by households. The worship of the deity involves getting ready
to receive the god. Ganesha is invited with a special mantras and
offerings. It involves the panchamrit (five nectars), which includes
milk, curd, ghee, honey and jaggery, with which the god's icon is bathed,
cleansing in between with water
Ganesha is then given a red garment and the sacred thread. He is then smeared with red sandal paste and offered red or yellow flowers. A diya lamp is lit, bells chime and food is offered in six symbolic mouthfuls. During the festival, puja is performed twice every day - in the morning and in the evening. Ganesha is offered special leaves and flowers and Durva grasses. The Ganesha mantra is chanted, followed by a Ganesha prayer.
The main sweet-dishes during the festival period are Modak and Karanjis. (Literally meaning of MODAK is that which gives (or brings) happiness. There are also public celebrations of the festival, with local communities (mandals) vying with each other to put up the biggest idol. The festival is the time for a lot of cultural activities like songs, dramas and orchestra. The festival ends when the idol of the Ganesha is immersed into water (Visarjana), accompanied by loud shouts of Ganapati Bappa Moraya!