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).
The duration of the Lord's stay varies from place to place. Usually Ganesh Charturthi is celebrated for 10 days, from Bhadrapad Shudh Chaturthi to the Ananta Chaturdashi. People try to make a visit to as many pandals as possible with their friends and family and get a "darshan" (view) of the deity.
The concept of community celebrations has given way to huge grandeur in the celebrations. On this occasion, the community pandals are arranged where the ten days Pooja is carried on. This Pandal is like a temporary abode for the deity. This is also the common place for feasts and celebrations for the devotees. The Pooja is carried on in this Pandal in a very interesting way. Half the Pandal is decorated for the Pooja and half of it is arranged for sitting arrangements, get-togethers, feasting and celebrations of the devotees. The making of Pandals for the Pooja begins day before the actual Pooja starts.
The making of Pandal is also a complex and lengthy phenomenon. It is an intricate affair of arranging a beautiful and temporary shelter for ten days celebrations. The entire cost of arrangement of the Pandals is met by community donations. Making of the Pooja Pandals follows pre-decided plans that use bamboo poles, wooden planks and clothes. The use of colorful clothes and fresh flowers for ambiences enhance the beauty of the Pandal. The decorations of the Pandal are done in accordance with space available and the expected gathering.
It has now become a fashion to set Pooja Pandals through community contribution in every colony and street especially in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. The trend of designer Pandals with complex lightings and intricate patterns are also in extreme demands on this occasion. Decorated by lights, flowers and several such items, the modern Pandals give a grand look. The Pandals all over the city give a mesmerizing look to the city as well as extreme enthusiasm and grandeur to the festival.
The festival comes to an end on the day of Anant Chaudas. On this day, the idols of Ganesha are taken from various pandals, doorsteps, localities and puja rooms for a truly royal ride. The streets of Mumbai are packed with multitudes as each locality comes out on the streets with its Ganesha. Firecrackers announce the arrival of the procession that halts every now and then for people to get a last glimpse of their favourite God and seek his blessings, for he is the remover of all obstacles. Devotees dance and sing songs and play with color on this day. The idol is given a "visarjan" (immersion) amidst loud chants of "Ganesh Maharaj Ki Jai!" (Hail Lord Ganesh). The idols are carried into the holy waters, and face the direction of the local community centres they started their journey from, till their visarjan, or immersion. In other towns and villages, folks carry the idols to the local river or tank for the visarjan ceremony.
People make pleas to the Lord to return the next year with chants of "Ganpati bappa morya, pudcha varshi laukar ya" (Hail Lord Ganesh, return again soon next year). The procession and immersion is accompanied with dancing and the sound of exciting drum-beats, devotional songs and exploding firecrackers.