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Ganesh Utsav

Written By: Ruchi - Aug• 29•14
Ganesh Utsav is a major festival of Maharashtra, though with time it has now gained popularity all over India. Till 1893, Ganesh Utsav celebrations were done privately at home in a traditional manner. In 1893, the freedom fighter, Lokmanya Tilak popularized Ganesh Utsav as a national festival to enhance the sense of social belonging among Indians and to unite them to fight the British rule.
How is it celebrated
Ganesh Festival is an eleven days affair starting on the 4th day of Hindu month Bhadra and ending on Anant Chaturdashi in the same month. On Chaturthi (the fourth day of Bhadra) the idols of Ganesh are set in the homes and in public places and daily pooja is done with Tilak, Aarti and Sweets. The most traditional sweet for Ganesh Utsav is Modak, which is made of rice flour, coconut, sugar and khoya. On Anant Chaturdashi, the idol is taken out of the homes in processions and immersed in the river or sea along with the slogans ‘Ganpati Bappa Moraya Purchya Varshi Laukariya’ meaning come again early next year. Idol can also be taken out before Chaturdashi.
The belief is that during each day of this festival, Ganesh removes one of the human weaknesses and finally he takes away all those weaknesses with him as he is immersed in the water.
The Legend
The popular story is that Ganesh was born to Parvati, when Shankar (his father) was away. One day Parvati asked Ganesha to guard the quarters while she was taking bath. Ganesha had never seen Shankar till this date. As fate would have it, Shankar came back right when Ganesh was guarding the quarters and Ganesha wouldn’t let him in. Shankar got very angry and cut Ganesha’s head. When Parvati came out, she was very upset. To console her, Shankar sent out his trrops to get a head, whatever they find first. Troops found an elephant and brought his head, which Shankar fixed on Ganesh’s body and brought him back to life. Shankar also gave him the blessing that he will be very knowledgeable and he will be worshiped by everyone.
The Explanation
The reasoning behind the elephant story does not make any sense to me at all. First of all, Shankar was such a powerful devata, who could meditate for years at a time, then how come he did not have the patience to wait for Parvati to come out. Secondly, if he got angry and chopped off Ganesh’s head, why couldn’t he fix that same head when Parvati got upset? Why did he need another head? And lastly, if the head somehow got destroyed, he could have gotten any head on the earth with his powers. Why did he choose elephant’s head?
Legend actually has a deep hidden meaning. Shankar chopped off Ganesha’s head because Ganesha was being arrogant and was not listening to any logic. Shankar did not put that same head back because then Ganesha would have gotten his same arrogance back. Shankar purposefully used elephant’s head because elephant has big ears so he listens more. Elephant has small but far reaching eyes to see far away (to make Ganesha far sighted). Elephant has small mouth to speak less. Elephant has a trunk, which is strong and flexible. Basically Shankar got rid of Ganesh’s weaknesses and gave him the strengths, worth worshiping. Ganesh’s head always reminds us of the strengths we need to cultivate in our own lives.
What Ganesh symbolizes

  • His big elephant head symbolizes big thinking
  • His small eyes symbolize farsightedness
  • He has huge ears to listen more
  • He has small mouth to speak less
  • The trunk of Ganesh symbolizes strength and adaptive nature
  • His one tusk is missing, telling us to discard the bad
  • He has large belly to keep everything to himself and not broadcast what he listens
  • His one hand holds an axe, with which he cut off all the attachments
  • His second hand carries a rope, through which he pulls people together
  • He offers rewards for their work in the form of modak (the sweet)
  • His fourth hand blesses everyone
  • The offerings at his feet symbolize that the entire world, are out there for the taking
  • His vehicle is the tiny mouse because mouse can make his own way through the earth and reach his destination
  • One of his legs is touching the ground while the other one is up. This means that even after having so many powers, he is grounded to earth.
  • No wonder we worship him before any big undertaking.