Ganesh Chaturthi – Celebrating the Elephant God
Lord Ganesh, the elephant headed son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, has lots of legends behind him. Most holy books agree that lord Ganesh was created by Goddess Parvati using the sandalwood paste she used for bathing. She then asked lord Ganesh to guard the door while she was bathing. In the meantime, Lord Shiva returned home and was stopped by lord Ganesh. As lord Shiva did not know him, he asked his army of ghosts (Ghanas) to teach lord Ganesh a lesson in etiquette.
The Ghanas were easily defeated by lord Ganesh. The sage of heaven, lord Narada along with the seven wise rishis (Saptarshi) tried to intercede diplomatically, but failed in their endeavor. This incensed the King of Gods, lord Indra, who attacked Lord Ganesh with all his army but were also unsuccessful. This was the last straw.
An enraged lord Shiva beheaded lord Ganesh. This infuriated Goddess Parvati so much, that she revealed her secret identity; the Adi Shakti( the energy that fuels the universe),and took on a monstrous form which threatened to destroy the universe. Terrified Gods and Goddesses prostrated before her, while the holy trinity went in search of a replacement head. They found an elephant searching for her baby and promptly supplanted lord Ganesha’s head with the elephant’s head and breathed life into it. Lord Shiva then dubbed him as Ganesha, meaning lord of the Ghanas and declared him superior to all Gods and Goddesses excepting Vishnu, Lakshmi, Shiva and Parvati. Thus, lord Ganesh, the God of letters, wisdom, good fortune, prosperity, intelligence and remover of obstacles came into being.
In Maharashtra, where Ganesh Chaturthi is most fervently celebrated, he is referred to as ‘Vighna hartha’ or the lord of removal of obstacles. Ganesh Chaturthi is also enthusiastically celebrated in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha and Chhattisgarh. The celebrations have also spread across many countries with large ethnic Indian populaces like Nepal, Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, Mauritius, Malaysia, Singapore, Fiji, Guyana, Britain, America and Canada. Wherever Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated, a little bit local ethnicity seeps into it. The statues are anointed with red kumkum and sandalwood paste, amidst chanting of Vedic hymns from the Rig Veda, Ganapati Atharva Shirsha, Upanishads, and the Ganesha stotra from the Narada Purana to seek his blessings. The festivities may last from one day to 11 days depending on the local customs.
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