When the fervor of Ganesh Chaturthi is in the air, even an atheist is overwhelmed. Such is the passion and devotion!
Ganapati is just one of the thousand deities worshiped in India. So what makes him special? Well, there are plenty of reasons. But for me, it is primarily because – let’s face it – he is the cutest!
Gods’ generally are depicted as composed, serene and smiling and Goddesses as charming and beautiful. But the general projection of Ganesha is a strong and defiant, obedient one. He is also worshiped before beginning any new task, as his blessings are considered auspicious.
Why he has an elephant head, is a lengthy and interesting story (which can be found here). Putting it briefly, an angered Lord Shiva (his father) had apparently cut off Ganesha’s head when the latter did not heed his command, because he was in turn carrying out Parvati’s (his mother) orders. When Parvati demanded that the deed be undone, his body was retrofitted with an elephant head!
Pre-independent Indians were banned by the Britishers from getting together as a crowd so as to preemptively quash any revolution in the making. Festivals, however, were not banned. Lokmanya Tilak used this to his advantage and popularized public celebrations of the festival to inspire unity. And I personally think that it was a pretty cool idea.
Nevertheless, this day is celebrated with great enthusiasm among the Western and Southern parts of India. I have witnessed it through my childhood and I still enjoy it every year. More than anything, it is an occasion for a get-together of the extended family.
The celebrations go on for about a couple of weeks. I will attempt to capture glimpses and post them if possible.