Ganesha Chaturthi is a 10-day festival celebrating the birth of Ganesh, the Hindu supreme god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. This spectacular festival honors the birth of the beloved Hindu elephant-headed god, Lord Ganesha, popularly worshiped for his ability to remove obstacles and bring good fortune. Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated in Hindu culture in Late August or early September, depending on the cycle of the moon. It falls on the fourth day after new moon in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada. In 2012, the first day of Ganesh Chaturthi is today, September 19! It is celebrated for 11 days (ending on September 29), with the biggest spectacle taking place on the last day called Ananta Chaturdasi day. While celebrated all over India, it is most elaborate in Maharashtra,Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa. Outside India, it is celebrated widely in Nepal and by Hindus in the United States, Canada, Mauritius, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma and Fiji.
The festival begins with the installation of huge elaborately crafted statutes of Ganesha in homes and podiums, which have been especially constructed and beautifully decorated. Artisans put months of effort into making the statues. It’s forbidden to look at the moon on this first night as legend had it the moon
laughed at Lord Ganesha when he fell from his vehicle, the rat. Once a statue of Lord Ganesh is installed, a ceremony is undertaken to invoke his holy presence into the statue. This ritual is called the Pranapratishhtha Puja, during which a number of mantras are recited. Following this a special worship is performed. Offerings of sweets, flowers, rice, coconut, jaggery and coins are made to the God. The statue is also anointed with red chandan powder. Prayers are offered to Lord Ganesha every day during the festival. Temples devoted to Lord Ganesha also organize special events and prayers. Those who have a Ganesha statue in their house treat and care for him as a much loved guest.
The festival is celebrated in a very public manner. Local communities compete with each other to put up the biggest and best Ganesha statue and display, resulting in very crowded streets, filled with boisterous devotees, and lots of music.
Ganesh Chaturthi festival ends with the immersion or Nimajjan of Ganapati idols in water known as Ganesh Visarjan or Vinayaka Nimajjan. Ganpati Visarjan 2012 date is on September 29 – the Ananta Chaturadsi day. But Ganesha is also immersed in water after one and half day and also on the 3rd, 5th,7th or the 10th day. On these days, the mammoth statues are placed in a body of water and left to disintegrate in a process called visarjan (immersion).
The symbolic meaning of Ganesh Chaturthi festival is that Lord Ganesha comes and stays among the people. The immersion symbolizes his return from the earth after removing the obstacles and unhappiness of his devotees.