Vinayaka Chathurthi is the festival ascribed to the incarnation of Sri Vinayaka, who is also called, hailed and prayed as Gajanana, Vignesh, Vigna Raja, Ganadhipa, Bala Chandra, Gajmukh, Pillayar, Vinayakudu, Ganesh and innumerable names.
Vinayaka Chathurthi occurs on the Shukla Paksha Chathurthi of Bhadra Padha month as per both the Amantha and Purnimantha Calendars. For the Year 2023, it occurs on Monday, 18th September 2023 and Tuesday, 19th September 2023. The exact duration of the Chathurthi Tithi has to be ascertained from the respective regional calendars.
Though Vinayaka Chathurthi is not the actual birthday of Sri Ganesha, there are several stories associated with the festival.
As per Sri Vinayaka Puran, Sri Ganesh was born as the Son of Bhagwan Shiva and Parvathi only in one of the Kalpas. Otherwise, Sri Ganapthi is the prime God who had created the three Murthies viz., Sri Shiva, Sri Vishnu and Sri Brahma and assigned them their tasks.
As per the legend, Sri Parvathi was originally born as Sri Sathi and She had married Sri Rudra, the prime manifestation of Bhagwan Shiva. Sri Sathi was the daughter of the King Daksha who never respected his Son-in-Law.
Due to this, Sri Rudra and Sri Sathy were always at loggerheads. Sri Sathy was torn between the apathy of her father and the misery of her husband. Finally, at a yagna done by Her father, Sri Sathy went as the uninvited guest and She was humiliated.
Unable to withstand the pain of disrespect, She had immolated Herself in the Yagna fire. Sri Rudra got furious with His father-in-law and killed him. He took the slain body of Sri Sathi and roaming all-over the place mourning His loss.
Sri Rudra too then went into hibernation and was deep into meditation. With the unwilling help of Manmadha, the God of love, He was re-kindled to take interest in worldly life.
Meanwhile, Sri Sathi was born as the daughter of the mountain king Himavan. As he was the King of Parvatha, Sri Sathi was known as Sri Parvathi. Sri Parvathi was doing penance to get united with Bhagwan Shiva in marriage.
One of the Sages suggested to Sri Parvathi to observe Vinayaka Chathuthi Vrat for thirty days from the Shukla Paksha Chathurthi of Shravan month to the Shukla Paksha Chathurthi of Bhadra Padha month.
Sri Parvathi Devi had observed the Vrat with devotion with partial fasting for thirty days. On the Bhadra Padha Sukla Paksha Chathurthi, She had done a grand Puja and completed the Vrat.
With the result of the virtuous benefits of observing the Vrat, She soon got married to Bhagwan Shiva.
Once Sri Ganesha, on a chathurthi day, i.e fourth day from Amavasya, had a sumptuous meal and visited His Father Bhagwan Shiva. Due to heavy stomach, Sri Ganesha could not walk properly and fell down.
His stomach had burst out and He collapsed. On seeing this, Chandra (moon) sitting on Bhagwan Shiva’s Head laughed. Goddess Parvathi, seeing Her Son’s ordeal, got angry at Chandra and cursed him that whoever sights Chandra on chathurthi day would be cursed.
She also had revived Sri Ganesha. Then Chandra apologized to Sri Parvathi for his mistake. Then Sri Parvathi said that the day Sri Ganesha had revived shall be celebrated as Ganesh Chathurthi and anyone sighting moon on that Chathurthi day would be blessed.
There was a King named Karthaman who was ruling the whole World. He was a good and pious King. His subjects were happy and contended in his rule.
One day, Sage Brihu came to his palace. He welcomed him with good hospitality. The King asked the Sage, “I have enormous wealth and it keeps growing. Even if I keep donating, my wealth keeps increasing. How come I have such a blessing?”.
The Sage was pleased with the King’s hospitality and humility. He told him as follows:
“Oh King, You were born as a poor vysya in your earlier birth. None of your relatives accepted or respected you. You and your family members were always humiliated.
Unable to bear the torture, you ran away to the forest and was wandering here and there. You had sighted the Ashram of Sage Saubari and went there.
You prostrated before the Sage and told him your predicament. He advised you to observe Sri Vinayaka Chathurthi Vrat for thirty days from the Shukla Paksha Chathurthi of Shravan month to the Shukla Paksha Chathurthi of Bhadra Padha month.
You had sincerely observed the Vrat with fasting foregoing your sleep. On Bhadra Padha Shukla Paksha Chathurthi day, you had celebrated the vrat in a grand manner.
Sage Saubari then advised you to return home assuring you that your problems would have been solved by then. He also advised you to follow the path of dharma irrespective of the situation.
You went home. You were surprised that your small house had become a palace and your wife and children looked radiant and wealthy. Even the relatives were flocking to your home and you were celebrated and revered by all.
You had realized that all these were possible only due to observance of Sri Vinayak Chathurthi festival. You had kept to the parameters of dharma way of life and did Sri Vinayak Chathurthi Vrat every year with sincerity and devotion.
Because of the virtuous benefits of doing Sri Vinayaka Chathurthi Vrat, you are now enjoying the benefits and comforts”.
In earlier days, the devotees made fresh Ganesha idols from mud / clay, chanted mantras, did poojas, offered neivedyam and distributed to all in every household.
Devotees raise early in the morning, take holy bath and prepare for the Puja. Colorful Rangolis are drawn at the entrance of the house. It is decked up with mango leaves and palm leaves thoran.
At the Puja place, the idol / picture of Sri Ganesh is kept. It is decorated with flowers. A small paper umbrella is kept behind the idol. Sri Ganesh is adorned with the garland made of Erukkam flowers. A yagnopaveetham is also put on the Vigraha.
Oil and Ghee lamps are lit. Incense sticks and Sambrani are lit. Dhurva grass (arugampul), sami leaves, mango leaves and various flowers are collected. Turmeric rice is kept ready. Chandan, Kumkum and Turmeric also are kept ready.
Ashtothara Satha Namavali of Sri Vinayaka is recited and archana is done. The special pathra archana is also done with dhurva grass and other leaves.
Modakam, the sweet made of rice flour, coconut and jaggery is the main item of Neivedyam to Sri Ganesha. Apart from these, Sundal, Payasam and various fruits are offered as Neivedyam.
After Karpura Harathi, some of the stories of Sri Vinayaka Vrat are recited and listened to. Various Slokams / Stotrams on Sri Ganesh are recited devoutly.
After completion of puja, aarti is taken. Neivedyam is shared amongst family members and neighbours.
In the evening, after lighting lamps at puja place, the moon is sighted in the sky and prayed at.
At the Ganesh and Shiva temples, special abhishekam and puja are done to Sri Ganesh with devout devotion.
It is believed that it is auspicious to sight atleast seven Ganeshas on this day.
After a few days of pooja, the idols were immersed in water bodies such as well, temple tanks, lakes, rivers and oceans. It is ideally done on the fourteenth day from Bhadrapada Amavasya (Chathurthasi),i.e eleventh day of Ganesh Chathurthi.
This immersion is celebrated as Anant Chathurthasi. It is believed that Sri Ganesha goes back to Mount Kailash to his father and mother on this day.
However, during the ruling of Chatrapathi Shivaji in Maharashtra, he had made Ganesh Chathurthi into a community festival so as to warn and ward off the extremists of the other cult. From that period onwards, Ganesh idols were also kept at public places and community prayers were held and the immersion of the idols happened after the procession with dances and songs.
During the British rule in India, Lokamanya Balagangadhar Tilak, the freedom fighter had initiated the celebration of Sri Ganesh Chathurthi in a very grand manner in Maharashtra and made it as the community movement against the rulers.
From then on, Sri Ganesh Chathurthi is being celebrated both as a family function and community function allover India.