Ganesh Chaturthi – An Indian Festival Celebrating Birth of Lord Ganesha (The Elephant-Headed God)

What is Ganesh Chaturthi?

Ganesh Chaturthi is a grand Indian festival generally celebrated at end of August or first week of September. If you are in India during this time do not miss the spectacular procession that happens at end of the festival. Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival celebrating the birth of Hindu God Ganesha (the elephant-headed God) and celebrated throughout India with great pomp and reverence. Every festival in India has an interesting story associated with it so is the Ganesh festival.

The Legend – Why is Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrated?

Lord Ganesha or Ganpati is the son of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva. The popular folklore is that Goddess Parvati created Ganesha and asked him to guard the door while she had her bath. When Lord Shiva returned Ganesha stopped him too and they both got into a fight. Lord Shiva in rage severed Ganesha’s head. Knowing of this Parvati was appalled and asked to bring Ganesh back to life. Shiva asked his followers to bring a head facing north and all that the followers could manage to get was the head of an elephant. Lord Shiva fixed it to Ganesha’s body bringing him back to life and blessed him to be worshipped as God of new beginnings for Hindus.

History

Ganesh Chaturthi was celebrated within families till 1893 when Lokmanya Tilak a social reformer and independence activist encouraged people to celebrate Ganesh festival on a large scale as a public event. Celebrating the festival in public helped bring people together irrespective of caste and kindled the patriotism amongst the people of the country.

The Ganesh Festival

During the festival, several large colorful marquees are set up throughout the city in which colossal idol of Ganesha is housed along with one small idol which is worshipped. The larger statue is usually part of the marquee theme. People also place a Ganesh idol at home and worship it. The number of days these statues are worshipped varies which are always odd days. Majority keep for 5 or 11 days. On 5th or 11th day, these statues are taken out for immersion in nearby ponds or lakes.

The Ganesh Statues

The preparations start months before the festival. The skilled artisans make statues of Ganesh in large number and aesthetically adorn it. The statues are usually made of clay or POP and are then painted in vibrant colors. The models of Ganesha are created in various colors and sizes as per the order. Most of the marquees are theme based and hence the Ganesha they order portray a pose from a mythological story or the theme of the marquees. Due to the environmental hazards caused by the idols made of POP (Plaster of Paris) more people are now going for buying eco-friendly clay idols which are painted with organic colors.

Ganesh Chaturthi Indian Festival

Ganesh Chaturthi Indian Festival

Ganesh Chaturthi Indian Festival

The colorful statues of Ganesha are kept on display in various shops a month before the festival where people choose from the options, pay and book the Ganesh statues. The statues which will be kept for worship are taken home only on the day of the festival.

Ganesh Chaturthi Indian Festival

Ganesh at Home

The house is elaborately decorated with colorful lights and decorative papers. A variety of sweets and meals are prepared. Priests are invited to do puja, chant Ganesh mantras and perform rituals, firecrackers are burst and devotional songs are sung. After the puja family get together and devour on delicious festive food and desserts.

Ganesh at Marquees

A day or two before the festival huge statues of Ganesha are transported on trucks and large vehicles to their respective marquees. The smaller statue for worship will be brought only on the day of the festival. Visiting the marquees to see the splendid decorations and the theme of the marquees during the festival is a fun activity for kids and family. Some of the marquees are very popular and are being celebrated for close to 100 years. Lalbaugcha Raja (83 years) and Mumbaicha Raja (89 years) in Lalbaug, Mumbai, Keshavji Naik Chawl (123 years) and Chinchpoklicha Chintamani (97 years) are amongst the most popular ones where one can always find long queues for visit.

Ganesh Chaturthi Indian Festival

Ganesh Chaturthi Indian Festival

During the festival days, several cultural programs like dance, music, drama, and competitions are organized wherein the people of the locality take part.

Festival Markets

During the festival period, the markets are overflowing with bright and gorgeous flowers and garlands, decoration items which are a beautiful sight to behold. Do plan a stroll around the market if you have time.

Ganesh Chaturthi Indian Festival

Ganesh Chaturthi Indian Festival

Ganesh Visarjan or Ganpati Visarjan (Ganesh Idol Immersion)

Ganesh Visarjan is the procession of immersion of Lord Ganesh. The procession starts by early evening. The worshipped idols at home are taken to nearest lakes or makeshift ponds for immersion. Below picture is from one of the villages near Mumbai where all the houses in the village keep Ganesh idol and take them for immersion together.

Ganesh Chaturthi Indian Festival

The statues of Ganesh from marquees are loaded on trucks along with the smaller statue and head towards the nearest lake or Pond amidst great splendor accompanied by drumbeats, music, firecrackers, and dance which is a sight to behold. In Mumbai, Chowpatty is the place where one can witness a spectacular show. A huge number of idols are taken to the Chowpatty beach to immerse in the sea. Idols are loaded on makeshift floating logs and boats are taken deeper into the sea for immersion.

Ganesh Chaturthi Indian Festival

Ganesh Chaturthi Indian Festival

Ganesh Chaturthi Indian Festival

Ganesh Chaturthi Indian Festival

These pictures are from Mumbai city in the Maharashtra state of India. Maharashtra state celebrates Ganesh festival on a large scale. But one can witness similar grandeur in most of the prominent states of India like Goa, Karnataka, Gujarat, and Andhra Pradesh.

The marquees set up across the city in numerous localities and are open to the public but some very popular ones may have long queues for hours so plan accordingly.

The cultural programs are also usually held in each of the localities where the marquees are installed which are open to public too.

Do not miss the procession on the 5th and 11th day, the one on the 11th day is huge. The best place to witness the immersion of Idols and the procession in Mumbai is the Chowpatty beach.

Have you visited India during the festival? How has been your experience? Do share with us in comments.

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22 thoughts on “Ganesh Chaturthi – An Indian Festival Celebrating Birth of Lord Ganesha (The Elephant-Headed God)

  • August 9, 2017 at 5:33 am
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    I’ve always found India such a culturally rich and historical country. Having done a minor at University in Indian studies, I can relate to this post. I haven’t yet visited Ganesh Chaturthi, but after reading this and seeing the pictures, I’ll definitely be adding it to the list when I plan my travels to India. The colours of the festival market are incredible too!

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  • August 9, 2017 at 9:28 am
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    I always love timing my visits to other countries for major festivals. This is one of the most interesting festivals I’ve heard to date. I have been to one and would definitely be curious to participate!!

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  • August 10, 2017 at 7:38 am
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    The Ganesh Chaturthi Indian Festival sounds like a lot of fun to attend. I always love Indian festivals and weddings as they are always so beautiful and colourful. I can’t believe that they take months before had to make the colourful statues of Ganesh that is impressive. I always love the stories that go behind a league too Ganesha’s head being severed off and then he is brought back to life. I would love to attend but the only thing that puts me off would be the lines of people.

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  • August 10, 2017 at 10:27 am
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    The Ganesh festival looks like a unique experience. If I was to see it I think I’d go to the quietest city that hosts it or I could throw myself into the biggest in Mumbai. It must be fun for the buyers viewing what they can buy throughout the previous month.

    Reply
  • August 10, 2017 at 12:29 pm
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    This is a great article. Ganesh Chaturthi is a fantastic festival. This is very famous Indian Travel. Thanks for sharing that article.

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  • August 10, 2017 at 4:31 pm
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    Having spent almost 6 years in Pune, I have witnessed the gala celebrations during the Ganesh Festival. The city is all lit up and sweets tend to have no end. Its lovely to see people come together during Visarjan, and off lately how they have become environmentally conscious and start using Ganesh Idols made up of organic stuff.

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  • August 10, 2017 at 6:13 pm
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    I am going to India next month and really wanted to partake in the Ganesh Chaturthi Festival! The colors and decorations all dedicated to the celebration of the birth of Lord Ganesha (The Elephant-Headed God) is exquisite!! I love your pictures of the parade from Mumbai City, beautiful!

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  • August 11, 2017 at 6:48 am
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    Wow, this is so cool! It seems so many of the Indian festivals celebrated are filled with such vibrant colors. This looks like such a fun and lively festival – would love to experience it someday.

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  • August 11, 2017 at 6:04 pm
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    This is a nice writeup for the Ganesh Chaturthi festival and you have given a comprehensive guide for people who are visiting the festival for the first time. I love how grand the celebrations are in Mumbai. I just wish that more and more people start looking into ecofriendly idols.

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  • August 13, 2017 at 4:06 am
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    Wow. This is so stunning. The colours and the pictures are just breathtaking.
    I hope to one day visit India for this festival. Until then we celebrate on a smaller scale back home!

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  • August 13, 2017 at 5:06 am
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    Great post Rashmi! I barely celebrated it earlier, but from the time I’ve moved to Maharashtra…it’s the biggest festival around 🙂

    Looking forward to spending on the streets of Mumbai this year 🙂

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  • August 13, 2017 at 11:25 am
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    It looks like a beautiful celebration to attend. It was new for me to learn about this today but now I know of it I really want to go and celebrate it too!

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  • August 13, 2017 at 11:41 am
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    I lived in Mumbai for 7 years and I don’t think I’ve seen true-blue Mumbaikars looking happier than they do during Ganesh Chaturthi. For them, this festival is more than about being religious- it’s about spirituality, faith and community and that is amazing to see as someone who didn’t grow up with it.

    Reply
  • August 14, 2017 at 2:45 am
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    What a beautiful festival. I’ve always wanted to celebrate a big Hindu festival and Ganesh is the Hindu god I’ve most felt kindred with. The remover of obstacles, I can use his help. Thanks for sharing this gorgeous tribute to Ganesh.

    Reply
  • August 14, 2017 at 3:26 am
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    Festivals are so awesome! I think they’re a great way to combine both tourists and locals. I would enjoy the colorful displays and would be obsessing over those flowers. I’m glad I finally know the meaning behind it.

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  • August 14, 2017 at 8:16 am
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    I love India, i love the festivals and how it brings people together the colours in your picures are amazing and makes me wish i could go back there now. Thank you for explaining the whole story behind it now i know for next time. looks amazing thank you

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  • August 14, 2017 at 9:05 am
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    India has a rich cultural atmosphere. The effort that is put into each festival is incredible and I love how colourful and vibrant most of the festivals are. Thank you for sharing a lovely article about Ganesh Chaturthi.

    Reply
  • August 15, 2017 at 2:12 pm
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    Have always associated Ganesh Chaturthi with fond memories of childhood. Our families have always celebrated this festival with lots of enthusiasm and devotion. Always love the food and the culture associated with this festival. Look forward to celebration the festival soon.

    Reply
  • August 18, 2017 at 5:26 am
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    The Ganesh festival seems incredible! I can only image the colors, the smell of incense, the people worshiping. Would love to visit India at that time. Thanks for the post!

    Reply

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