Lord Ganesha’s 2016 Birthday Party
Millions the world over joyously invoke the enduring grace of the Lord of Obstacles
THE ELEPHANT-FACED LORD HAS BEEN WORSHIPED FROM antiquity. He is invoked by every Hindu at the beginning of every ceremony in every corner of India and the world over. Ganesha Chaturthi, His birthday party, is one of the grand festivals of Hinduism, celebrated on the 4th day of the waxing moon. Nowhere is it more widely and elaborately celebrated than in India’s state of Maharashtra. No one knows for sure how long ago Ganesha has been worshiped on this day. According to one story (see Wikipedia), the famed Maratha King Shivaji instituted public celebration of Ganesha in Pune around 1650. Maratha Peshwars (state administrators) continued the practice. The first sarvajanik pandals (public shrines) for worship were started in 1892 and made popular by freedom fighter Lokmaya Tilak. “In 1893, Tilak praised the celebration of Sarvajanik Ganesha Utsav (festival) in his newspaper, Kesari, and the following year he installed a Ganesha idol in the Kesari office; his efforts transformed the annual domestic festival into a large, well-organised public event.... generating nationalistic fervor in the Maharashtrian people to oppose British colonial rule.” Months of preparation precede Ganesha’s annual birthday on the 4th tithi in the month of Bhadrapada. Rites are continued for one to ten days with immersion of murtis in water on the last day. The 2016 festival was as big as ever. According to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, 50,250 murtis were immersed at the designated natural ocean fronts, rivers, lakes and artificially constructed pools. That included 9,714 Ganeshas from public shrines, 40,302 from home shrines and 234 Gauri idols (Parvati holding baby Ganesha) that were immersed at 71 natural sites and 27 kritrim talavs (artificial pools) across the city and in the suburbs. Small artificial pools, made with plastic tarpaulins or brick and mortar, received 22,000 immersions, thereby allaying the burden on natural waterways. The clay from dissolved Ganeshas is often spread on gardens.
ALL PHOTOS: ARUN K. MISHRA