Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most popular of Hindu festivals. This is the birthday of Lord Ganesha. It is the day most sacred to Lord Ganesha. It falls on the 4th day of the bright fortnight of Bhadrapada (August-September). It is observed throughout India, as well as by devoted Hindus in all parts of the world.
The Ganesh festival is one of the most widely celebrated Hindu festivals all over India and holds a special place in the hearts of Goan people. It is an occasion of fun and frolic, a time of cleaning and decorating the place of worship of the elephant headed God, who is very much revered amongst his humble devotees all over. More importantly, it brings about a reunion of family and friends, exchanging gifts and overall rejoicing to celebrate the birth of Lord Ganesha.
There are various idols of Lord Ganesh in different shapes and sizes well adorned and installed in heavily decorated pandals by various merchant associations and other merchant groups in all the cities of Goa, the preparations for this much adored festival begins just at the culmination of the harvesting season or the holy month of Shravana. As per Hindu customs and traditions, Lord Ganesha idols are worshipped with due respect and devotion amidst a lot of gaiety and splendour for 1 1/2, 5, 7, 9 or 11 days in the month of Bhadrapada after which they are ceremonially immersed in big lakes or oceans. The immersion on the day of Anant Chaturdashi marks the end of the most favourite festival of the Hindu people in Goa and all over.
Lord Ganesha is the elephant-headed God. He is worshipped first in any prayers. His Names are repeated first before any auspicious work is begun, before any kind of worship is begun. He is the Lord of power and wisdom. He is the eldest son of Lord Shiva and the elder brother of Skanda or Kartikeya. He is the energy of Lord Shiva and so He is called the son of Shankar and Umadevi. By worshipping Lord Ganesha mothers hope to earn for their sons the sterling virtues of Ganesha.
Lord Ganesh is also well known as the Remover of Obstacles and God of Wisdom and deserves the initial place of honour at almost every festive occasion be it a wedding, start of a business or a housewarming ceremony. He is specially invoked due to his divine powers in removing obstacles and evil spirits. Lord Ganesh is worshipped in many incarnations or Avatars, 8 of them very much famous as Ashtavinayaks spread all over India, mostly in Maharashtra.
There are many legends surrounding his birth and his Elephant headed origin. The most popular one being his creation by Goddess Parvati and getting his head cut off for not obeying his father, Lord Shiva's orders of letting him in to visit Parvati. Once upon a time, the Goddess Gauri (consort of Lord Shiva), while bathing, created Ganesha as a pure white being out of the mud of Her Body and placed Him at the entrance of the house. She told Him not to allow anyone to enter while she went inside for a bath. Lord Shiva Himself was returning home quite thirsty and was stopped by Ganesha at the gate. Shiva became angry and cut off Ganesha's head as He thought Ganesha was an outsider.
When Gauri came to know of this she was sorely grieved. To console her grief, Shiva ordered His servants to cut off and bring to Him the head of any creature that might be sleeping with its head facing north. The servants went on their mission and found only an elephant in that position. The sacrifice was thus made and the elephant's head was brought before Shiva. The Lord then joined the elephant's head onto the body of Ganesha.
Lord Ganesh has a mouse for his vehicle and is known for his liking of Modaks or sweets which are offered to him on every ocassion whether it be Ganesh Chaturthi, Sankashti or Vinayaka Chaturthi.
The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi holds a special significance in almost all the religious cities and villages of Goa, specially Mapusa, which is famous for its Temples at Ganeshpuri and Khorlim as well as the local association who also worship the Lord amidst great fervour. Marcela is the village where this festival is celebrated the most as it is a village known for its wide number of Hindu temples. The artisans from the village are engaged in making many different idols of Lord Ganesh, with varied ideas springing in their creative minds. There are idols made of the Lord's own vehicle, wherein mice of various sizes made of fur form the Ganesh idol, another one made of the material from the commercial crops, the Arecanut and the Coconut. There are idols made from Cane and Bamboo in other parts of this village and neighbouring Cumbharjua village wherein the entire pandal and the idol is made of cane itself wherein the idol rests in a half lying posture on a swing, moving with help of a motor. All over these festival days, there are hordes of devotees from different religions besides Hindus, scurrying at these places to worship and pay obeisance to the most loved God of Wisdom.
The following are some of the common Names of Lord Ganesha: Dhoomraketu, Sumukha, Ekadantha, Gajakarnaka, Lambodara, Vignaraja, Ganadhyaksha, Phalachandra, Gajanana, Vinayaka, Vakratunda, Siddhivinayaka, Surpakarna, Heramba, Skandapurvaja, Kapila and Vigneshwara. He is also known by many as Maha-Ganapathi.