Vinayaka Chavithi is another name for the Hindu festival, Ganesh Chaturthi, which marks the birth of the elephant-headed deity Ganesha. The festival is also known as Ganesh Chaturdashi.
Lord Ganesh is revered as the deity of knowledge, wealth, and good fortune. He is also known as Gajanana, Dhoomraketu, Ekdanta, Vakrtunda, and Siddhi Vinayaka.
Ganesh Chaturthi, the birth of Ganesha, the god of wisdom and understanding, is one of India's most popular festivals. According to mythology, Ganesha was formed by Parvati, Shiva's consort. The goddess was grieved when Shiva cut off Ganesha's head in a fit of wrath. She then asked that her husband resurrect him. Shiva resurrected Ganesha by replacing his severed head with that of an elephant and brought Ganesha back to life.
The festival, which falls in the Bhadrapada month of the Hindu calendar, marks the birthday of Lord Ganesha, son of Shiva and Parvati.
This 10-day festival is held with tremendous zeal and splendour. The celebrations are especially large in Maharashtra, where this is possibly the biggest holiday of the year. Chhatrapati Shivaji, the famous Maratha leader, is believed to have created this festival as a public event to promote culture and togetherness among his caste-divided people. It was resurrected in the late nineteenth century by nationalist leader Bal Gangadhar Tilak to promote the idea of freedom during the country's war for independence. As a result, this event encompasses not only faith and culture, but also India's rich past.
Mumbai is the ideal place to experience the magnificence of this festival as celebrations are elevated to a whole new level. The planning begins approximately a month in advance. The puja starts with installing colourful statues of Ganesha in various shapes and sizes across the city neighbourhoods. A ritual known as the "Pranpratishtha Puja" then takes place. The word 'pranpratishtha' translates to 'life established,' hence this puja is designed to attract the deity's divine presence into the statue.
The first day of the festivities begin with prayers to the elephant-headed god, who is offered various delicacies as prasad.
Ganesha is offered sweets, the most important of which is modak (dumplings made with rice flour dough & a sweet coconut jaggery filling), which is considered his favourite. Flowers, rice, coconut, jaggery, and money are also offered. On the final day of the celebration, Ananta Chaturdashi, massive processions bearing the idol stroll through the streets before immersing it in a river or the sea. The cry "Ganpati Bappa Moraya" fills the air, pleading with the deity to take away life's sufferings and to return soon the following year.
Prayers are offered over the festival's ten days; music, dancing, theatre, and other cultural events are held around Mumbai. During these celebrations, every street in Mumbai comes alive.
Loudspeakers play everything from devotional hymns to Bollywood item numbers as people flock to the streets to dance and express joy. At the end of the 10-day festival, the sea, rivers, and other bodies of water bear the weight of massive Lord Ganesha idols immersed in them (most idols are removed and recycled the following year).
Also known as Ganesh Utsav, is celebrated in states like Maharashtra, and other places like Gujarat, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa (one of the most prominent festivals for Konkanis), Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu.
Ganesh Chaturthi, one of India's biggest festivals, references Indian history. In 1892, the first public Ganesha idol was installed on Laxmi Road in Pune. Lokmanya Balgangadhar Tilak, the social reformer and freedom fighter, regarded the festival as an opportunity to unite people throughout India's independence movement. He proposed a public Ganesh Chaturthi celebration in his Marathi daily, Kesari, in 1893. This community event brought individuals from all areas of life together on an equal platform to fight for the freedom struggle. Since then, Ganesh Chaturthi has become a community celebration of large-scale public gatherings and is being celebrated with increasing zeal today.
The most popular activity during this 10-day celebration is pandal hopping. During this time, there is no shortage of pandals in Pune and Mumbai. Some pandals are more famous than others due to their historical significance and the type of Ganesha idols they contain.
Here are some of the must-visit pandals in Mumbai and Pune.
The most visited pandal in Mumbai, Lalbaugcha Raja, is well-known for its renowned Ganesha statue. The King of Lalbaug (where the pandal is located) has long been a favourite of the city's worshippers. Since its inception in 1934, this pandal has drawn many believers yearly, thanks partly to the Kambli Family of Kambli Arts' creation of the most picturesque, patent-protected idols since 1935. The idol here is rumoured to have mystical powers when it comes to fulfilling prayers, hence attracts close to 1.5 million faithful followers during the 10 days.
Located close to Lalbaugcha Raja, the Mumbaicha Raja pandal is also popular. The pandal’s structure replicates a different tourist destination or historical monument in the country every year. The Mumbaicha Raja pandal was established in 1928 to benefit mill workers in the nearby areas, hence becoming one of the oldest and widely-popular pandals in the city.
The Girgaum Keshavji Naik Chawl festival, started in 1893, is said to be Mumbai’s oldest sarvajanik or community Ganapati festival.
Shri Kasba Ganapati, which was founded in the early 1890s, quickly became the most sought-after pandal in Pune. Known for its ornate and thematic decorations, this pandal attracts a large crowd. One of the most interesting aspects of this pandal's celebrations is the custom of dedicating one of the ten days to the town's women. This is not the end of the pandal's distinction; it has also led the Ganesh immersion processions in Pune since 1894.
The Goud Saraswat Brahmin Samaj Ganeshotsav in King's Circle, Sion, is undoubtedly Mumbai's richest Ganesh pandal. The deity here is decked with authentic gold jewels and wears a 22-carat gold crown.
The festival culminates with the immersion of the idol, Ganesha Visarjan. The idols of Ganesha are brought to various water bodies and submerged. People bid farewell to Ganesha by shouting, 'Ganpati bappa Morya, pudchya varshi lavkar ya' (meaning Lord Ganpati, please bless us and return next year). Hundreds of people follow the towering idols as they are carried to the sea (and other water bodies) for immersion. The spectacle of the processions meandering through the roads has to be seen to be believed. Be prepared for traffic jams and massive crowds.
In Mumbai, there are several main venues for the immersion of Ganesha idols. Go to Girgaum (Girgaon) Chowpatty on Marine Drive in south Mumbai to see the largest and most famous Ganesha idols. Another popular spot for immersion is Juhu Beach in Mumbai's western suburbs. Another option is to go to Versova Beach.