By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Ganesa-caturthi, GaNeZa-caturthi, Ganesha-caturthi
Gaṇeśa or Gaṇapati, the elephant faced god, is an extremely popular deity. He is referred as:
- Vighneśvara - Lord and destroyer of obstacles
- Varada - the giver of boons
- Siddhida - the giver of success in undertakings
No venture can start without worshiping Gaṇeśa first. He is also the god of knowledge, wisdom, literature and fine-arts. Hence the Gaṇeśa-caturthī-vrata is of supreme importance. The purāṇas are replete with Gaṇeśa's stories that describe his origin and adventures. It also contains philosophical disquisitions delving into his symbols. Origin or evolution of the enigmatic deity is a debatable topic for pundits from years. It is believed that through this vrata, devotees harness his grace and powers. It is a highly extolled vrata in religious work.
One more Gaṇeśa Caturthī is mentioned in some purāṇas falling on Māgha śukla caturthī . But it is not being observed now.
Method of this Vrata
Noon is the best time to perform this pujā to Gaṇeśa on this sacred day. A beautifully painted clay image is brought and installed on a suitable altar and decorated. After the usual preliminary rites, prāṇapratiṣṭhā is done with appropriate mantras. This is followed by worship with sixteen upacāras.
An eminent part of this puja is offering of 21 durvā grass tendrils and 21 modaka to the lord. The image is then ceremonially immersed in water after the completion of vrata.
Gist of Vrata
This symbolically teaches us to modestly offer all the good things of life that give us pleasure and happiness. The number 21 stands for the personal traits such as:
- Five organs of perception
- Karmendriyas or the five organs of action
- Five prāṇas or vital airs
- Five bhutas or elements
Thus the vrata teaches the total dedication towards Lord Gaṇeśa, who is none other than the highest brahman or the Absolute in that form.
Duration of Vrata
In modern times, the image is kept and worshiped for 1 to 2 days or 2 to 7 days or even up to Anantacaturdaśi before immersing. It is taken in a procession for the immersion. It is plunged into either a well, a tank, a river or the sea.
There is a widespread popular belief that if one sees the moon on the Gaṇeśa Caturthī day, he will be falsely charged with the commission of a theft or a similar crime. The story of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, implicated in the theft of the famous gold-yielding gem (syamantaka) belonging to the Yādava chieftain Satrājit, is cited as an example. The solution to this problem is the recitation of a mantra over some water and drinking it.
- Prāṇapratiṣṭhā is called as ‘infusing life into the image’ or ‘invoking the presence of the deity into the image’.
- Sixteen upacāras are the modes of showing honor.
- Modaka is a kind of sweet relished by lord Gaṇeśa.
- It is represented by modaka which means ‘that which gives us joy’ and durvā grass which represents modesty.
- Anantacaturdaśi 14th day of bright half of Bhādrapada.
- This story appears in the Mahābhārata and in several purāṇas such as Vāyu, Matsya, Visnu and Bhāgavata.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore