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Ganesh Chaturthi (Gaṇeśa Caturthī)

Chapter · January 2018


DOI: 10.1007/978-94-024-1036-5_521-1

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Ruchi Agarwal
Mahidol University
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Ganesh Chaturthi (Ganeśa with artisans crafting clay images of Ganesh in


Caturthī) ˙ different sizes. These images are installed in spe-
cially decorated pandals (temporary structure
Ruchi Agarwal used in religious events) or at homes. They are
Social Science Division, Mahidol University later sanctified and worshiped for 10 days accom-
International College, Nakorn Pathom, Thailand panied by a great fanfare. The most famous and
the most visited Ganesh pandals belong to the
Lalbaugcha Raja Sarvajanik Ganeshostsav
Synonyms Mandal, founded in 1934. Priests conduct regular
puja (what?) with chanting of mantras and offer-
Ganesh Chaturthi; Ganesh Festival; Vinayaka ings of special modakas (sweet balls made from
Chaturthi rice flour, jiggery, and coconut), water, incense,
flowers, etc. Devotees sing and dance in joy while
shouting Ganapati Bappa Morya. On the eleventh
Origin and Celebrations day of the festival, the clay images are taken in a
procession to immerse in water with devotees
Ganesh Chaturthi, one of the most popular Hindu dancing and singing as they bid farewell and
festivals, celebrates the birthday of Ganesh pray for the deity’s early return the following year.
throughout India. It is a 10-day festival that com- Although Ganesh Chaturthi is believed to be
mences on Chaturthi (the fourth day) of the ancient in origin, it was not a part of
Shukla Paksha (waxing moon) in the month of Maharashtra’s tradition until being introduced
Bhadrapada and ends on Anant Caturdashi (the during the Maratha Empire. It was the nationalist
fourteenth day) of the waxing moon period leader Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856–1920), the first
according to the Hindu lunar calendar. It usually popular leader of the Indian independence move-
falls in August or September. It is a day celebrat- ment against the British colonial rule, who
ing the creation of a little boy, Ganesh, by his converted Ganesh into a powerful cultural and
mother, Parvati, as a personal gana (attendant). religious symbol of unity among the
Popular belief has it that Ganesh visits earth dur- Maharashtrian people in an attempt to resist the
ing these 10 days to bless his devotees. Although British rule [1]. Political opposition was restricted
the festival is observed with great enthusiasm all during the British rule, but there was no interfer-
over India, it is particularly celebrated in Maha- ence with religious observances, so the Ganesh
rashtra and is also called Vinayaka Chaturthi. festival provided a way to show national unity. In
Preparation for the festival begins months earlier 1893, Tilak reinvented the Ganesh Chaturthi from
# Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2018
P. Jain et al. (eds.), Hinduism and Tribal Religions, Encyclopedia of Indian Religions,
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-024-1036-5_521-1
2 Ganesh Chaturthi (Ganeśa Caturthī)
˙

an annual family celebration into a public event. festival for businesses and individuals in central
This was a way of building national spirit and India. For business owners, praying to Ganesh
showing unity of Hindu society by making the brings prosperity, while abundant harvests are
festival a community-based enterprise [2, ensured for the farmers.
3]. Ganesa Chaturthi was also a way of uniting
people earlier separated by the caste system.
Ganesh came to be seen as a god for everyone.
Cross-References
The caste system in India is a social stratifica-
tion of people into four main groups, priests,
▶ Ganesa
warriors, merchants, and the peasants. The first
three are considered as the upper castes. The peas-
ants fall under the category of lower caste. Mem-
bership comes through birth, and there is a mutual References
interdependence defined by occupations ritual
duties, roles, attributes surrounding purity and 1. Sukumar R (2003) Elephants, gods, and people. The
interrelationship of culture and ecology, Chapter 2. In:
pollution, specific customs, and traditions of wor- The living elephants: evolutionary ecology, behaviour,
ship [4]. Tilak saw the festival as a way of pro- and conservation. Oxford University Press, New York,
moting community participation and the pp 55–80
involvement of people from all castes together 2. Metcalf DB, Metcalf RT (2012) Civil society, colonial
constraints, 1885–1919, Chapter 5. In: A concise his-
for 10–12 days. In Maharashtra, the processions tory of modern India, 3rd edn. Cambridge University
to immerse Ganesh images in the sea became an Press, Cambridge/New York, pp 123–166
important mode of exhibiting and asserting Hindu 3. Reza NM (2015) Religious processions as a means of
cultural and political identity. Today, the festival is social conciliation, Chapter 15. In: Mathey K, Matuk
S (eds) Community-based urban violence prevention.
sponsored by business people in most of the cen- Transcript, Beilefeld, pp 268–279
tral Indian cities. It grows bigger every year and 4. O’Conner SJ Jr (1971) Hindu gods of peninsular Siam.
has become the most expensive communal Artibus Asiae Publishers, Ascona

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