Sri Vinyayaka or Pillaiyar or Ganeshji is the first amongst the Hindu Dieties.God is worshipped as Ganesh in His first form and name.
On the 4th tithi of the bright forthnight in the Hindu month of Bhadrapad(August-September),this festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is observed.
The most auspicious time or Muhurth for the performance of this celebration is midday,as said by Brihaspati and quoted in Kala-niraya.
Method of worship…..
A clay image of Lord Ganesh, beautifully painted is brought and Prana Pratishta (consecration)is effected and worship is offered with 16 Upcharas or steps of worship as follows:
1. Aawaahanam 2.Aasanam 3.Paadyam 4.Arghyam 5.Aachamaneeyam 6.Snaanam 7.Vastram 8.Yagyopaveetam 9.Gandham 10.Akshatam 11.Pushpam 12.Dhoopam 13.Deepam 14.Naivedhyam 15.Tamboolam 16.Dakshanaam and of course Aartee.
During the Ganeh chaturthi festival, clay idols of Ganesha are specially prepared for pooja. During the period when the idol of Ganesha is installed in a home, every morning and evening prayers (Aarti) are performed and hymns are sung. The singing of hymns is a popular event during this festival, especially for children. The hymns are sung to the clanging of small gongs (called jhanja), the sounds of which reverberate throughout the day
The Visarjan (immersion) Processions and Ceremony
The festival ends with the ceremony of immersion of the idols in the sea or rivers and wells. This ceremony which is called Ganesha-Visarjan which means immersion of Ganesha is as popular as the festival proper.
During the immersion ceremony huge crowds move in a procession carrying idols of Ganesha towards the places of immersion.
These processions which take place with great fanfare, begins in the afternoon and continue till the late hours of the night.
The Public Celebrations of Ganesh-Chaturthi
In these public celebrations huge images of Ganesha ranging from 10 feet to 40 feet are installed and alongwith the daily prayers and hymns, there are entertainment programmes which are a major attraction.
Till the turn of the last century, this festival was celebrated only in homes and temples. But during the struggle for independence against British rule, Lokmanya Tilak (an important freedom fighter who led the Indian freedom struggle before Mahatma Gandhi took over) gave it the form of a public festival.
The Mythological Explanation of Ganesha
But parallel to all the rationalization of this phenomenon, mythology has an equally enthralliing account that explains the birth (or more properly the creation) of this curious half-man, half-elephant God called Gajanana or Ganesha. All Hindus know that Ganesha is an unique deity. He is the primary God, and he is worshipped as Adhi moolan the root of all worships.
All Hindu prayers start with the invocation “Om Shree Ganeshaaya Namaha” meaning Salutations to You O Ganesha. Mythology has an explanation to offer for Ganesha’s elephant head as well as for his being a first among the Gods. The divine couple of Shiva and Parvati had remained childless for a long time after the birth of their first son Kartikeya.
Parvati makes Ganesha from Clay and Infuses Life in the Idol
Parvati’s motherly instincts made her yearn for a son and Shiva’s long absence from home intensified her yearning due to loneliness. On day a bright idea came to her mind, she decided to mould a statue of clay in the form of a son. Having created this the idol satisfied her yearning for a son. She used her divine power to bring the clay idol to life. Happy as she was to have the company of a son, she went about her chores, many a times leaving the boy in charge of the house.
Shiva Confronts Ganesha
One fine day while Parvati was busy with her daily ablutions, Shiva turned up and saw Parvati’s son Ganesha, guarding the entrance to his house.
Strangers as they were to each other the son (Ganesha) refused allow Shiva to enter the house. Taken aback at being prevented from entering his own house, Shiva asked this tiny sentinel who he was.
On being told that he was Parvati’s son Shiva was confounded and enraged, at this insolence. In a fit of anger Shiva chopped off his head and threw it away.
Shiva fetches an Elephant’s Head for the Beheaded Ganesha
When Parvati heard about this outrage she lost her temper and she demanded that Shiva restore her son to life immediately. Compelled to appease Parvati, Shiva set out to find the head of her son. Hard as he tried, he could not find the head that he had chopped off and thrown away in disgust. As he could not find the head he wanted, he thought of fitting the headless body with the head of any living being that he would come across. Having so resolved he came across a baby elephant head, which he carried it to his beloved and to pacify her, he fitted it to the lifeless body of her son and revived him. This was how the Lord Gajanana or Gaja-Mukha came into being.
Ganesha become the first among the Gods
To atone for his deed Shiva also granted a special status to Gajanana by issuing a divine decree that thence forth Gajanana would be the first to be invoked in every prayer and only after this, could the invocation of any pther God takes place.
This was how the elephant-headed Ganesha got to acquire his privileged position. In deference to the decree of lord Shiva, Hindus today, continue to regard Ganesha as the first God to be invoked in any prayer.