Ganesh Chaturthi, also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, is a Hindu festival celebrated to honor Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity of wisdom, prosperity, and good fortune.
In 2023, Ganesh Chaturthi falls on September 8th. This festival typically spans ten days, with the main celebrations occurring on the fourth day (Chaturthi). It involves the installation of Ganesha idols in homes and public places, followed by prayers, offerings, and cultural festivities. Ganesh Chaturthi holds great cultural and religious significance, symbolizing the removal of obstacles and the beginning of new endeavors.
Ganesh Chaturthi, an Indian festival, commemorates the birth of Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity symbolizing wisdom, prosperity, new beginnings, and obstacle removal in Hindu mythology. It is also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi and is celebrated extensively in India, Nepal, and among the global Hindu community, including in the UAE.
The festival spans ten days and follows the lunar calendar, typically falling in August or September. This year, Ganesh Chaturthi starts on a Tuesday. During this time, some families place a Ganesha idol in their homes for one and a half to ten days, inviting family and friends for darshan (prayers). Additionally, various temples construct vibrant pandals accessible to the public, some housing idols as tall as 20 feet.
The initiation of the worship is referred to as pranapratishtha, a ritual that breathes life into the idol.
Following the initiation, the next phase is known as shhodashopachara, which encompasses various methods of paying homage. These practices involve daily morning and evening prayers, along with offerings of flowers, fruits, incense, and sweets, with modak, a dumpling cherished as one of Ganesha’s favorite delicacies, being a prominent choice.
Additional observances during Ganesh Chaturthi encompass the recitation of Vedic hymns and Hindu scriptures. Rituals like anointing idols with red sandalwood paste are also part of the celebrations.
At the conclusion of the designated period, the festival culminates with the visarjan or immersion ceremony. During this ritual, idols are taken through the streets in festive processions, accompanied by music and dancing, and eventually immersed in nearby water bodies. This symbolic act signifies Ganesha’s journey back to his divine dwelling, Mount Kailas, where his parents, the Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati, reside.
Due to the substantial environmental impact of immersing hundreds of thousands of idols into rivers, lakes, and ponds, Indian authorities have initiated regulations to manage the immersion process. Many idol-makers have shifted to crafting figurines from biodegradable materials like clay instead of plaster from Paris. Additionally, some families choose to submerge their statues in water barrels at home, reducing the ecological footprint associated with the traditional immersion practice. These efforts aim to minimize the environmental repercussions of the festival.