Ganesh Chaturti (Vinayaka Chaviti)
Ganesh Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chaturthi is celebrated on the fourth day on the waxing moon of the lunar calendar month of Bhadrapada to mark the birthday of Ganesha, the elephant headed God of intellect and wisdom. This typically comes sometime between 20th of August and 15th of September. The festival lasts for 10 days, ending on Ananta Chaturdashi. It is celebrated by hindus all over the India and is the biggest festival in Maharashtra.
Ganesh, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati, is widely worshipped as the supreme god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. While held all over India, it is at it is most elaborate in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, and other areas which were former states of the Maratha Empire.
During the Ganesha festival, a household worships a murti of Shri Ganesha. The worship lasts an odd number of days (from 1 to 11 days, sometimes 13).
This festival starting with the installation of beautifully engraved (sculptured) Ganesh idols in colorfully decorated homes and mandapas (pendals). The mandapas has been depicted by religious themes or current events. The idols are worshipped with families and friends. An enthusiastic spiritual atmosphere prevails.
The main sweet-dish during the festival is modak, also known as modagam [kozhakottai] in South India and karanjis. A modak is a dumpling made from rice flour/wheat flour with a stuffing of coconut, jaggery and some other condiments. It can be either steam-cooked or fried and the coconut can be fresh/dry grated. A karanji is similar but has the shape of the 4th day moon.
There are also public celebrations of the festival, with local communities (mandals) vying with each other to put up the biggest murti. The festival is the time for a lot of cultural activities like songs, dramas and orchestra.
Today, the Ganesh Festival is not only a popular festival - it has become a very critical and important economic activity for Maharashtra. Many artists, industries, and businesses survive on this mega-event. Ganesh Festival also provides a stage for budding artists to present their art to the public.