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Vinayagar Chathurthi

During the Ganeshchaturthi festival, clay idols of Ganesha are specially prepared and most families in Maharashtra install an idol for periods varying from two days to eleven days. 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 predominant sweet dish of Ganesh Chaturthi is the ‘modak’, which is called ‘modagam’ in South India. ‘Karanjis’ also is the sweet dish of the festival. ‘Modak’ is a dumpling of wheat flour or rice flour stuffed with jaggery, dry or fresh grated coconut and other condiments. This is fried or steamed. The word ‘modak’ implies ‘that brings happiness’. ‘Karanjis’ are quite similar to ‘modaks’, but have the shape of the 4th day moon.

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, begin in the afternoon and continue till the late hours of the night. Although this festival is observed in all parts of the country, it is celebrated with maximum fervour in Maharashtra where it is celebrated both publicly and privately.

This festival occurs on the fourth day (chaturthi). Ganesh Chaturthi occurs around August. In these public celebrations huge images of Ganesha ranging from 10 feet to 40 feet are installed and along with 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.