Ganesh Chaturthi, the great Ganesha festival, also known as 'Vinayak Chaturthi' or 'Vinayaka Chavithi' is celebrated by Hindus around the world as the birthday of Lord Ganesha. Ganesha Chaturthi or Ganesha Festival is a day on which, the son of Shiva and Parvati, is believed to bestow his presence on earth for all his devotees.
The festival is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Bhaadrapada, starting on the shukla chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon period). This festival is observed in the lunar month of bhadrapada shukla paksha chathurthi madhyahana vyapini purvaviddha. If Chaturthi prevails on both days, the first day should be observed. Even if chaturthi prevails for the complete duration of madhyahana on the second day, if it prevails on the previous day's madhyahana period even for one ghatika (24 minutes), the previous day should be observed. The date usually falls between 20 August and 15 September. An annual festival honours Ganesha for ten days, starting on Ganesh Chaturthi, which typically falls in late August or early September. The festival culminates on the day of “Ananta Chaturdashi”, when images (murtis) of Ganesha are immersed in the most convenient body of water.
Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati, is widely worshipped as the supreme god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune.
The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated the states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and many other parts of India. In 1893, Lokmanya Tilak transformed this annual Ganesha festival from private family celebrations into a grand public event. He did so "to bridge the gap between the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins and find an appropriate context in which to build a new grassroots unity between them" in his nationalistic strivings against the British in Maharashtra. Because of Ganesha's wide appeal as "the god for Everyman", Tilak chose him as a rallying point for Indian protest against British rule. Tilak was the first to install large public images of Ganesha in pavilions, and he established the practice of submerging all the public images on the tenth day. Today, Hindus across India celebrate the Ganapati festival with great fervour, though it is most popular in the state of Maharashtra. The festival also assumes huge proportions in Mumbai and in the surrounding belt of Ashtavinayaka temples.
Ganesha statues installed in street corners and in homes and elaborate arrangements are made for lighting, decoration, mirrors and the most common of flowers. Poojas (prayer services) are performed daily. The artists who make the idols of Ganesh compete with each other to make bigger and more magnificent and elegant idols. The relevantly larger ones are anything from 10 meters to 30 meters in height. These statues are then carried on decorated floats to be immersed in the sea after one, three, five, seven and ten days. Thousands of processions converge on the beaches to immerse the holy idols in the sea. This procession and immersion is accompanied by drum- beats, devotional songs and dancing.
It is still forbidden to look at the moon on that day as the moon had laughed at Ganesha when he fell from his vehicle, the rat. With the immersion of the idol amidst the chanting of "Ganesh Maharaj Ki Jai!”. The festival ends with pleas to Ganesha to return the next year with chants of "Ganpati bappa morya, pudcha varshi laukar ya" (Hail Lord Ganesh, return again soon next year).