Ganesh Chaturthi, also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, marks the birth of Lord Ganesha. This auspicious festival is observed in the month of Bhadra, according to the Hindu calendar. This year, it will be celebrated on September 2nd.

In popular culture the festival is marked with the installation of Ganesha clay idols privately in homes, or publicly on elaborate pandals (temporary stages). And ritualistic offering of prayers, fasting by devotees and distribution of Prasadam after prayers amongst everyone are some of the common practices associated with the festival. Modaka, believed to be a favourite of Lord Ganesh, is prepared and distributed largely everywhere.

Lord Ganesha is considered the God of New Beginnings and the Remover of Obstacles (Vighnaharta) as well as the god of wisdom and intelligence. While the festival ends when devotees immerse the idol of Ganesha in any form of water body, it is celebrated for distinctive days as per practices followed by individuals across India.

The festival ends for majority of pandals on the tenth day after start, but some homes or groups end it after one and a half day, three days, seven days as well where the idol is carried in a public procession with music and group chanting.

Rituals associated with Ganesh Chaturthi

The festival begins with Pranapratishhtha that involves chanting of mantras by a priest. This is followed by a ritual that includes a 16-step ritual known as Shodashopachara Puja. During the puja, offerings that are believed to be a favourite of Ganesha are made to the idol. These include modak, shrikhand, coconut rice, motichoor laddoo, payasam, and medu vada, among others.

Finally, the festival ends with a ritual called Uttarpuja, which involves bidding farewell to Lord Ganesha. After this ritual, the statue of Ganesha is immersed in water. This is known as Ganpati Visarjan — slogans like ‘Ganapati Bappa Morya’ are shouted by devotees to pay respect to Ganesha and keep up with the spirit of celebrations and they bid a revered farewell to Ganesha.

The festival features cultural activities such as singing, theater and orchestral performances and community activities such as free medical checkups, blood-donation sites and donations to the poor. The festival is an important economic activity in Mumbai, Surat, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai.

The modak is the most popular sweet prepared for the festival. It is a dumpling made from rice or wheat flour, stuffed with grated coconut, jaggery, dried fruits and other condiments and steamed or fried. Another popular sweet dish is the karanji, is similar to modak in composition and taste, but in a semicircular shape. In Goa, it is known as Nevri among the Goans and the Konkani people.