Ganesh Chaturthi: Facts & Fables

From how Ganesh Chaturthi was first celebrated the way it presently is, to the myths surrounding the curse of staring at the moon during the festival – there are several fascinating things about the festival that you probably aren’t aware of. Read up on and get awed!

It is that time of the year again. Ganesha idols are seen everywhere, and the city is gearing up for the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. It is believed that Lord Ganesha himself descends on Earth to bless his devotees on this day and anyone who worships him during this time is certain to find success in whatever he endeavours.
Much credit goes to revolutionary freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak for resuscitating interest in the festival. It was during 1893 when Tilak urged the masses to unite and come together to celebrate the festival. The main motive was to unite people and inculcate feelings of patriotism in them.
Lord Ganesha is also referred to as “Vigana Harta” (the remover of obstacles) and “Buddhi Pradaayaka” (the giver of wisdom and intellect). In fact, there are around 108 names of Lord Ganesha, but Ganesha and Ganpati are more common.
Ganesha Chaturthi is also the day when Lord Shiva declared Ganesha to be above all Hindu Gods, excluding Vishnu Lakshmi, Shiva and Parvati.
Lord Ganesha is sometimes represented with only one tusk. This form of Lord Ganesha is known as ‘Ek Dant’. There are many myths about the missing tooth of Ganesha. The most common is the story about the tooth being lost as it was hurled at the moon who had offended Ganesha by mocking him.

Lord Ganesha is known for his elephant head and his enormous belly. He is one of the friendliest Hindu Gods, who is bereft of malice and curses. The cute and cuddly image of Ganesha inspires lots of love among his devotees, which is why he is called ‘Ganpati’, the lord of the people. Ganesh Chatuthi is special festival meant to cel- ebrate the glory of Lord Ganesha and is due in a week’s time. So, let us find out what are the things that Ganesha loves the most to please him on this special day:
Modak: Everyone who celebrates Ganesh Chaturthi knows this one! First things first, Lord Ganesha is a complete foodie. The love handles and enormous pouches on his body leave no doubt that Ganesha just loves food. So, the easiest way to Ganapati’s heart is through his belly. Modaks are Ganesha’s favourite sweets and must be offered to him on Ganesh Chaturthi.
Dhruva Grass: These are basically blades of grass that have three branches and grow wild in the fields. There is an interesting story that explains why Ganesha loves Dhruva grass. Ganesha once swallowed an evil demon named Analasura who was tormenting the Gods. But, after swallowing the demon, Lord Ganesha was in immense pain as the evil demon refused to get digested. Some ancient wise sages rained Dhruva grass on him and his stomach cooled. From then on, this grass is a favourite of Ganesha.

Marigolds (Genda): Most people who bring the idol of Ganesha home to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi use red and yellow marigolds to decorate. Ganesha loves marigold and he is often seen wearing garlands made of marigolds and Dhruva grass.
Conch Shell (Shankh): Ganesha has four hands and one of them holds a conch shell. Many Hindu festivals are initiated with the blowing of the conch shells. Ganapati too likes the sound of the conch shells. His devotees blow the conch at home while doing Ganesha aarti. The shrill sound is supposed to wade away evil spirits.

Fruits of the Season: Coconuts and bananas are Ganesha’s favourite fruits. Ganesha’s head is of an elephant and thus has a weakness for bananas and all parts of the plantain. His idols are usually surrounded by banana leaves and also the stem of the banana plain. Some people also offer plantain flowers to Ganesha.
Did you know that it is considered unlucky to look at the moon during Ganesha Chaturthi? According to Hindu mythology, once while returning from a feast, Ganesha riding atop his mouse, was accosted by a snake. On seeing the snake, the petrified mouse dropped Lord Ganesha on the ground. Because of the impact of the fall, the belly of Lord Ganesha burst open and the food he had at the feast spilled out. Ganesha gathered all the fallen ladoos and modaks and stuffed them back in his belly, using the snake to hold his belly together. Chandra (Moon) who was watch- ing everything burst out laughing. This enraged Ganesha and he broke his tooth and hurled it at the Moon, cursing him to never be able to shine again. Later, the Moon sought forgiveness and the curse was undone. But, the myth about looking at the moon as a bad luck omen still prevails.
The vehicle of Ganesha is the mouse. But have you wondered, why the mouse? The mouse has ability to break down substances into their tiny parts. We need to develop an intelligent mind that is capable of understanding things in detail, which enters into the depth of matters.
Ganesha also carries a snake around his waist, which is a symbol of the energy which resides in all human beings. This energy can be used both beneficially and for destructive purposes. The position of the snake at the navel of the murti is a symbol of ‘vyaan’, an aspect of Vayu – the element of air within the body.

When it comes to buying Ganesh idols you have various options to choose from. If you think that all Ganpati idols are the same, then you are in for a surprise. Here’s what each idol represents:
The Sitting Pose: This is the most popular form of Ganpati idol. The God is usually seen sitting on a lotus or a throne. The most common pose is one where one leg is folded at the knee while the other foot rests on the ground. This is known as Lalitasana or the relaxed pose. Almost all such idols have a mouse, which is Ganapati’s vehicle near the feet. This idol is the one you would find in most households.
The Standing Pose: This idol is a representation of the right attitude. These idols are generally huge and look very regal. These statues are also believed to look very bulky as the enormous belly of the elephant headed god is seen. Some variations have such idols leaning on thrones or have the feet resting on his vahan, the mouse. Some of the biggest idols that are seen in mandals are of this variety.
The Dancing Pose: The Natraj Ganpati or dancing pose is the one which portrays the elephant-headed God as a musician. This pose symbolises the energy of destruction. This form is seen more in art. These idols are also more commonly seen at mandals and not in homes.

The Reclining Pose: This pose symbolises lux- ury, wealth, comfort and prosperity. This kind of idols usually have the Ganpati reclined on a pillow. This pose is generally seen in paintings and sculptures than in idols worshipped at home.
Alone in the city, the celebrations range from normal idols at home, to pompous celebrations in various places in thousands of numbers.
Image Credit: Shantanu Prasade