Ganesh Chaturthi is among the most auspicious festivals celebrated in Maharashtra during August and September. For Mumbai, this ten days festival is an absolute extravaganza of devotion fused with full throttle fun and camaraderie. Streets bustling with devotees and mammoth size pandals housing the imposing Lord Ganesh, the pot bellied elephant God, Mumbai is enamored in excitement with enthusiasm rife in all corners.Lord Ganesh is believed to be the Lord of Wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. Mumbai being the commercial capital of India, Lord Ganesh holds a special position amidst the Mumbaikars. Ganesh festival is observed throughout India; however, the festival is most elaborate in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.Ganesh Chaturthi is the period when it is believed that Lord Ganesh, son of Shiva and Parvati comes down on the earth to bless the humanity. Also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi in Sanskrit, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu, Ganesh Chaturthi typically falls sometime between 20th August and 15th September. The ten days festival culminates on Ananta Chaturdashi.Preparations for the celebrations of Lord Ganesh begin 2-3 months prior to the day of Ganesh Chaturthi. Clay models of Lord Ganesh are built and the size of this idol may vary from 3/4th of an inch to over 25 feet. On the day of the festival, it is placed on raised platforms in homes or in elaborately decorated outdoor tents for people to view and pray. The priest wearing red silk dhoti and shawl takes charge and invokes life in the idol amidst the chanting of mantras. This ritual is the pranapratishhtha. After this the shhodashopachara (16 ways of paying tribute) follows. Coconut, jaggery, 21 modakas (rice flour preparation), 21 durva (trefoil) blades and red flowers are offered. The idol is anointed with red unguent (rakta chandan). Throughout the ceremony, Vedic hymns from the Rig Veda and Ganapati Atharva Shirsha Upanishad, and Ganesh stotra from the Narada Purana are chanted. For 10 days, from Bhadrapad Shudh Chaturthi to the Ananta Chaturdashi, Ganesh is worshipped. On the 11th day, the image is carried through the streets amidst a lively procession when devotees dance and sing till they come to a river or the sea for immersion. All converge in the final procession shouting "Ganapathi Bappa Morya, Purchya Varshi Laukariya" (O father Ganesh, come again early next year). After the final offering of coconuts, flowers and camphor is made, people carry the idol to the river to immerse it. Ganesh Chaturthi is also long associated with India's freedom struggle. Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, an ardent freedom fighter quite strategically initiated a fire of religious revivalism through the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi. This served dual purpose inspiring the feelings of Hindu unity in Maharashtra and giving freedom fighters an opportunity to meet when the British government illegalised any gatherings, writings and slogans that could incite violence.Mumbai celebrates Ganesh Chaturthi with great religious and social fervor when other than invoking Lord Ganesha, there are several social service centers on the roll which include free medical checkup, blood donation camps, charity for the poor, dramatic performances, films, devotional songs, etc. that make the whole celebration worthwhile.
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