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Ganesh Chaturthi: A festival of hope and prosperity

The Ganesh Chaturthi festival in India is a beloved celebration filled with divinity, joy, and grandeur.

Ganesh Chaturthi

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  17 Sep 2023 6:40 AM GMT

Dipak Kurmi

(The writer can be reached at

The Ganesh Chaturthi festival in India is a beloved celebration filled with divinity, joy, and grandeur. It's a festival that brings people together regardless of their religion, caste, or creed. When we think of Ganesh Chaturthi, we envision the beautiful idol of Lord Ganesh, the excitement, the crowds, and the sweet aroma of His favourite modaks filling the air. Lord Ganesh is a God for everyone, known for new beginnings, removing obstacles, and supporting learning. This festival lasts for 10 days and not only marks Lord Ganesh's birthday but also serves as a social and community event that promotes harmony. Many believe that Lord Ganesh comes to earth during these 10 days to bless his devotees. So, for those who have a Ganesh statue at home, it's a time to care for him as a cherished guest. Indian festivals are incomplete without delicious food, and Ganesh Chaturthi is no exception. Throughout these 10 days of celebration, people make a special effort to please Lord Ganesh by preparing and offering His favourite dishes as offerings.

History: How Ganesh Chaturthi Became a Popular Festival

Ganesh Chaturthi is a traditional festival celebrated in many parts of India, but its grandeur and enthusiasm in the state of Maharashtra are unmatched. Interestingly, it wasn't always a big part of Maharashtra's culture until it arrived during the Maratha rule. Initially, Ganesh Chaturthi was more of a family affair. However, a significant transformation happened thanks to Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856–1920), a prominent leader in the Indian Independence Movement. He played a crucial role in turning Lord Ganesh into a powerful symbol of cultural and religious unity among the people of Maharashtra as a way to resist British rule. The British government was strict about political opposition and rebellion, but it didn't interfere with religious customs. So, the Ganesh festival became a platform to display national unity. In 1893, Tilak transformed Ganesh Chaturthi from a yearly family celebration into a full-blown public event.

Rituals and traditions

The preparations for Ganesh Chaturthi start months ahead of the festival. Skilled artisans create clay statues of Lord Ganesh in various sizes. These statues are then placed in beautifully decorated pandals (temporary structures used for religious events) or in people's homes. The celebration lasts for 10 days, following the Hindu lunar calendar, with the grandest festivities happening on the final day, known as Anant Chaturdashi. On the first day of the festival, amidst chants of "Ganpati Bappa Morya," thousands of devotees bring Lord Ganesh's idol to their homes. After placing the idol, a special ceremony called Prana Pratishtha is performed to invite the divine presence into the statue. During this ritual, many mantras (sacred chants) are recited, a worship ceremony is conducted, and offerings like sweets, flowers, rice, coconuts, jaggery, and coins are presented. Additionally, the statue is adorned with red sandalwood powder. Over the next 10 days, the idol is worshipped daily, and an evening prayer called "arti" is sung. It's believed that Lord Ganesh was born at noon, making this time of day especially auspicious for performing these rituals.

Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival celebrated with great pride and excitement in public places. Besides the prayers and special events held in temples dedicated to Lord Ganesh, there are also elaborately crafted statues of the Lord set up in specially built and beautifully decorated structures called pandals. Among local communities, there's even a competition to see who can create the most impressive Ganesh statue, which lasts for 10 days. People who follow the festival make sure to visit these public displays during this time. In the state of Maharashtra, the Lalbaugcha Raja Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal, founded in 1934, is one of the most famous and highly visited Ganesh pandals.

The highlight of this festival happens on the 11th day, which is quite a spectacle. On the final day, called Anant Chaturdashi, the statues of Lord Ganesh are paraded through the streets with singing and dancing. Afterward, they are submerged in the ocean or other water bodies. This act of immersing the statues and allowing them to dissolve symbolises the idea that the world is always changing and eventually transforms into something formless. It represents the cycle of life. As the devotees bid farewell, they chant "Ganpati Bappa Morya" and pray for Lord Ganesh to return soon in the following year. Business owners seek prosperity through these prayers, while farmers ask for bountiful harvests. In the city of Mumbai alone, it's believed that more than 150,000 statues are immersed in water each year during this festival!

Food is a big part of the celebrations

India celebrates numerous festivals, and they all come with delicious sweets and elaborate meals. Each festival in our country brings a rich variety of flavours, and different regions have their own unique culinary twists. Sweets like laddoos, barfis, and mithais are a common sight and treat during most festivals. But every festival also has its own special set of delicacies. The 10-day-long Ganesh Chaturthi festival creates an atmosphere much like a carnival. It's a festival known for its abundance of sweet treats because Lord Ganesh is believed to have a sweet tooth. So, during this time, you'll find homes and sweet shops making some of the most exquisite sweet delicacies, including modaks, laddoos, and barfis.

Bhog: Food for worship and devotees

The term "bhog" has two meanings during Ganesh Chaturthi. First, it's the food given to all those who come to honour Lord Ganesh. Second, it's the food presented to him during worship. Besides sweets and other tasty treats, fruits are also part of this offering. Among the fruits, bananas hold a special place because they are Lord Ganesh's favourite fruit and are given more importance than others.

Modak, Lord Ganesh's favourite sweet

This sweet treat, known as modak, is believed to be Lord Ganesh's absolute favorite. In fact, He is often called "Modakpriya" in the scriptures because of His deep affection for these sweet dumplings. So, on the first day of Ganesh Chaturthi, devotees offer Him a special dish of modak as part of the bhog (offering). Traditionally, modak was made from rice flour and jaggery. However, today, you can find various types of modak, including steamed modak, dry fruit modak, chocolate modak, fried modak, and more, each with its own unique flavour.

Laddoos are another favourite of Lord Ganesh.

In addition to modak, Lord Ganesh is also known to have a liking for laddoos. Among the laddoos offered to Him in the bhog, the delicious motichoor laddoo is one of the most common choices. You'll often see Lord Ganesh depicted holding motichoor laddoos in His hands in pictures or idols, showing His deep fondness for them. During the festival, other mouthwatering laddoos that are quite popular include coconut laddoos and til ke laddoos. These sweet treats are part of the festive celebrations.

Satori, a beloved festival sweet from Maharashtra

Satori is a sweet flatbread that's cherished during festivals in the state of Maharashtra. It's a delightful treat made from ingredients like khoya or mawa, ghee (clarified butter), gramme flour (besan), and milk.

Coconut rice is a popular offering in Western India.

Coconut rice is a common dish offered to the deity in Western India, especially during festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi. It's made by either soaking white rice in coconut milk or cooking it with coconut flakes. This tasty and aromatic dish is a favourite offering to Lord Ganesha.

Shrikhand, a sweet dish loved in India

Shrikhand is a sweet treat enjoyed in various regions of India. It's created by straining yoghurt and then topping it with pieces of nuts and raisins.

Banana Sheera: A Favourite Offering to Lord Ganesha

Banana sheera is a simple and beloved sweet dish often given to Lord Ganesha as an offering. It's prepared using mashed bananas, semolina, and sugar, and its texture and flavour are quite similar to the delightful semolina-based sweet called sooji ka halwa.

Puran Poli, a traditional stuffed bread

Puran Poli is a classic Indian stuffed flatbread. It's made from wheat and has a sweet filling that's flavoured with spices like cardamom and nutmeg. "Puran" means the stuffing, and "poli" refers to the flatbread.

"The value of a culture can be seen through its festivals." This well-known saying perfectly describes Ganesh Chaturthi. This special festival promotes living together peacefully and in harmony, bringing people closer. Besides the delicious food and excitement it brings, people eagerly await the arrival of the Lord of Peace and the Bringer of Happiness and Prosperity. Today, there is also a growing awareness about making eco-friendly choices when it comes to the Ganapati idol. People are encouraged to use materials that don't harm the environment or marine life, showing their care for the planet. The Ganesh Chaturthi festival is filled with excitement, optimism, and a wish for a better future. Ganpati Bappa Morya!

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