Vinayaka Chathurthi is celebrated as the birthday of the elephant headed Lord Vinayaka or Ganesha, the eldest son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, which falls on the Shukla Chathurthi (fourth day after new moon) day in the lunar month of Bhadrapada. It actually is celebrated on the day the star Hastham falls along with a Chathurthi, in the Tamil month of Avani, or the Malayalam month of Chingam, or the Sanskrit month of Sravanam.
In 2017, it falls on Friday, August 25th in India, other parts of Asia, in Europe and the Middle East. In the United States, some temple calendars state it as Thursday, August 24th and some as Friday, August 25th; you can choose to celebrate it based on whichever temple you usually follow.
Goddess Parvati wanted someone to guard her while Lord Shiva was away at battle. So, she made a child with the turmeric paste from her body and gave it life. She asked this child to guard the doors and not allow a single person in. This child guarded her quarters obeying his mother. Soon, Lord Shiva returned to his abode, but the child stopped him on his mother’s orders, telling the Lord that no one was to go inside. Lord Shiva became angry at this and cut off the boy’s head with his spear. Parvati came running to the scene and on seeing her son, lying lifeless without his head, burst into tears and demanded that Shiva restore her son’s life instantly. Shiva, in order to console his dear wife, ordered his Ganas to bring him the head of the first living creature they saw, to be set onto the child’s body. And that is how Lord Ganesha got his elephant head.
Every Hindu is familiar with the fact devotees pray to Lord Vinayaka by doing squats with the hands crossed across the chest, holding the opposite side ear-lobes, called Thoppu Karanam. Some devotees also cross their legs while performing it. The original name for the Thoppu Karanam was Dhorbit Karana. It is said that Lord Ganesha is very fond of Thoppu Karanam. There is a story behind this as well.
Lord Vishnu was performing pooja, Sahasranama Archana) to Lord Shiva one day, with a thousand lotus flowers, for the protection of the world. Shiva hid the thousandth flower, so Vishnu, took out one of his eyes and offered it to the Lord to do the last archanai. Touched by his devotion, Shiva presented Vishnu with the Sudarshana Chakra.
One day, Ganesha swallowed the Sudarsha Chakra, thinking it was food. This upset Vishnu a lot and he was confused as to how he can get the Chakra from within Ganesha. So, Vishnu, performed the Dorbit Karana and kneeled down in front of Ganesha, and this amused Ganesha, making him laugh, and the Sudarshana Chakra came out.
There is also another story about the origin of the thoppukaranams. Once there was a demon named Gajamukhasura, who was wreaking havoc and killing the Devas and humans. Ganesha fought the asura with fierce and swirled him in air. The Devas and Munis, who were watching the fight from above, got frightened that they might get hit by the swirling asura, and they started bowing down to Ganesha and performed the thoppukaranams repeatedly. Ganesha killed the asura, and restored peace to the Devas and humans, however, looking at the fierce form of his, the Devas and Munis continued to do the thoppu karanams.
It is also said that performing thoppukaranams help treat heart problems.
Moon on Chathurthi
There is a saying that one should not see the moon on a chathurthi. One day, Ganesha, who is very fond of coconut, was returning home after eating a lot of kozhakattais, when he saw the reflection of the moon in water. Assuming it to be a coconut piece, he bent down to take it, but alas, the chubby lord fell into the water and realized that it was just the reflection. He got angry because of this and cursed the moon that if anyone sees the moon on the day of chathurthi, he/she will get unwanted blame upon himself/herself.
Story about Ekadantam
Lord Ganesha, broke one of his tusks to use as a pen to write the Mahabharata, dictated to him by Sage Vyasa. That is how he got the name Ekadantam, meaning, one-tusked.
Significance of the Ganesha idol
On this day, devotees buy an idol of the lord and perform pooja to it, and on the 11th day after the pooja, the idol is immersed in the lake or river or sea. In Maharashtra, this festival is performed in an extremely grand manner – huge idols of this lord are worshipped in the temple and the pooja is performed. And on the 11th day, the idol is taken on a procession through the streets, with devotees singing “Ganapathi Baapa Moriya, Pudhachya Varshi Laukar ya”, which means “Oh Lord Ganapathi, come again next year” in Marati, the language of Maharashtra and later taken to the water bodies to be immersed. During the procession, artists and musicians perform in reverence to the Lord.
Vinayaka Chathurthi Celebration
On this day, we do the following things to please Lord Vinayaka.
- We decorate the front of the house with maavu kolam, vaazhai maram (plantain leaves) and thoranam.
- We decorate the pooja room and the place where the Ganesha idol sits on for the pooja, with maavu kolam.
- We make flower garlands for the Lord.
- We do the pooja by offering flowers and reciting the slokas.
- We offer the Neivedhyams.
- We do the Karpoora (Camphor) Harathi.
- We do the Mangala Harathi with nei (ghee) lamps and kumkum water.
- We distribute and offer the sweets prepared to neighbours and friends.
(It is said that when sweets like Kozhakattais are made, they should be offered to atleast one person, if possible.)
Slokas recited on Vinayaka Chathurthi
- Ganesha Ashtothram archanai
- Ganesha Sahasranamam
- Ganesha Panchaaksharam
- And many other prayers and bhajans on the Lord
Since Lord Ganesha has an elephant’s head, a lot of leaves are also offered along with flowers, like Vilvam leaves (Bael or Wood Apple in English), Erukku leaves (Giant Milkweed in English), Tulsi leaves, leaves of Pomegranate, leaves of the mango tree, Arali leaves (Ghanera in English), leaves of the Thechi Maram, among them, the main thing being Arugampullu (Bermuda Grass in English).
- Fruits like guava, pomegranate etc.
- Sweet/Vellam Kozhakattai
- Salt/Ulundu Kozhakattai
- Sesame Seeds/Ellu Kozhakattai
- Nei Appam
- Paruppu Vadai
- Sweet Chundal with Channa Dal
- Thaamboolam – Vethilai (Betel leaves), Paaku (Betel nuts), Pazham (Banana), and Thengai (Coconut)
HAPPY VINAYAKA CHATHURTHI!