How To Celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi At Home
Ganesh Chaturthi is an important Hindu festival celebrated in India and by Hindus in other parts of the world. It is an 11 day long festival that falls between mid August to mid September (as per the Hindu calendar) dedicated to Lord Ganesha or the “Elephant God”. The festival is very traditional involving prayers and offerings to the idol of Lord Ganesha, however in last 50 years or so, the festival has evolved into one celebrated together in a community. You would see several “pandals”(huge stage set ups) with massive idols and lots of decoration on streets and apartment blocks. Here we look at how Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated privately at home.
The idol of Ganesha is the most important aspect of the festival. Each year people buy new idols made of clay (though there is an increasing awareness about more eco-friendly materials). The idols are available in all sizes, starting from a mere few inches to several feet tall. Many people also like to create the idol themselves using mud, clay, plaster of paris etc. The idol is placed on a raised platform in a pre-designated prayer area of the house.
Just as a Christmas tree is decorated during Christmas, the prayer area is decorated with lot of detail for Ganesh Chaturthi. With the idol at its center, the prayer area can be decorated with flowers, colorful cloth pieces, ribbons, electric lights, oil lamps and other materials to brighten up and make the setup attractive.
Prayers And Offerings
Prayers are offered every day for all 11 days every morning and evening. There are specific “Aartis”(religious songs) and prayers dedicated to lord Ganesha. There are even specific days for different “Aartis”. If you do not know them, books, audio and videos are easily available. It is fairly common to have prayers being offered through pre-recorded audios.
Like in any other Hindu prayer, “Prasad” (sweet food item) is offered to the idol and then distributed among the family members. “Prasad” can be homemade or bought from stores. Modak is the most popular sweet offered during Ganesh Chaturthi.
“Visarjan”(immersion) is the final ceremony of Ganesh Chaturthi. On the 11th day, after the morning prayers, the idol is carried to a designated water body. This could be a pond, lake, river or ocean, and immersed along with offering of flowers and coins. The significance of this final journey is that Lord Ganesha is carrying away all the burdens of his followers and will return.
Ways to celebrate Ganesh Charurthi
When celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi at home, one can be quite flexible. Though traditionally it is celebrated for 11 days, you can choose to celebrate only for just one day too. In terms of prayers, one need not follow strict guidelines. You may or may not know the traditional rituals and you can offer prayers by playing a CD even! For immersion, if a natural water body is not available close by, you can immerse the idol in a water tank too. The idea is to create a sense of auspiciousness and good energy that religious functions tend to get in homes. The rituals are important but not rigid.
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