‘Ganapati Bappa Moriya’ The strain rends the air. A sea of men, women and children – praising the generosity of Lord Vinayak moves on the road lead to the river. All have the beautiful idols of Ganesh in a thousand moods and pastures with them – the smaller ones on their heads – the bigger ones on a vehicle of their choice. The size may differ but not the enthusiasm. It is a procession – variety in figures – full of songs of devotion. Even a bystander is tempted to move in and sing songs in the praise of the god of wisdom – prosperity through wisdom. The procession moves slowly. The smaller ones from different areas of the city join the main one. They have all performed ‘uttarpooja’ at home or at the public place the idol of the Lord was installed Devotional music accompanies the procession. Lo! it reaches the river bank. With all solemnity, one by one the Lord moves from the head of the devotee or from his vehicle, and one after the other sinks in the deep water.
For ten days the idol was the centre of activities – worshipped with crimson – red flowers and 21 bunches of three pronged leaves of ‘durva’ grass – Ridhi and Sidhi the two goddesses of prosperity to his right and left. People thronged the place of installation and offered the ‘prasadam’ (prasada) of modaks so dear to the god. He was worshipped every morning and evening with agarbattis pure ghee diyas nuts and fruits and all the ‘samagri’. Songs were sung- mantras were chanted – the Lord was dressed in fine fabrics – Kumkum was applied – rangoli was displayed – lights were lit. The old, young, men, women, children, all thronged the places. They would visit as many installations as possible and sing ‘bhajans’.
The idols of Vinayak or Ganesh were installed on the fourth day of Bhadrapad – shukla paksha. In Pune, Mumbai and all the cities of Maharashtra and in many cities of the Southern States there is a riot of colours, designs and postures of God Vinayak. If your pocket doesn’t allow a costly one, you may go for a small and simple idol. There are bigger ones for bigger pockets and purses. Lord Vinayak can be seen in different ‘Mudras’. One would like to have all of them. They are beautiful and graceful. You secure one and install it in your house. Many businessmen and societies would have the bigger idols costing thousands of rupees to be installed at public places. On the last day i.e. on Anent Chaturdasi there is ‘UttarPooja’. Now join the city procession to perform the ‘Visarjan.
‘Modaks’ for the Lord are prepared in all the houses. They are special modaks. ‘Saran’ of Khoa – sugar and dry fruits is filled in a ‘Maida’ bowl and then it is fried in pure ghee. Well, one may have other types ‘laddus’ too. But won’t you like to offer the ones liked by Vinayak the most. You will also have the prasadam. Children would collect it from different places.
Thus goes on this important festival for ten days – most of the people celebrating it with the same fervour with which they celebrate Diwali or Dussehra of Gokul Ashthami. They hardly know that it is not connected with any ancient events. It is just a brain child of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Tilak, the predecessor of Mahatma Gandhi in political activities during British regime had declared ‘Freedom is our birth right’. He experienced during the national movement that it is the responsibility of Hindus to fight for the freedom of the country. But they had adopted a few profiles and were almost slumbering. How to whip them out of this deep sleep. His sixth sense told him the clue. Religious faith is the best medium to unite the people. He propagated for Shivaji Janmotsav (Birthday of Shivaji) and Ganapati Utsav. The first was the tool to fight the foreign aggression as Shivaji did during Mughal regime. The other was to awake the socio-political consciousness among the people. He started Vinayak Chaturthi as a national festival in 1893.
Vinayak or Ganesh is the god of wisdom. Tilak wanted people to acquire wisdom to have success in all the fields. Thousands of years back Diwali, Dussehra, Ram Navmi, Gokul Ashthami and Holi began with a socio-political fervour to commemorate the birthdays or the achievements and victory of their hero or the kings in wars. Later on these very days turned religious and the heroes became gods. Those who saved the nation acquired divinity. Birthdays and Victory days of Ram and Krishna became the biggest religious festivals of the nation. Vinayak Chaturthi or Ganesh Chaturthi, the birthday or the day of incarnation of Lord Ganesh is celebrated with the same religious fervour in one way or the other throughout the country.
‘Visarjan’ symbolizes the affinity of the god with the ‘Tanchabhutas’ as that of the idols of Krishna, Balram & Subhadra in Puri. The incarnations of God remain on the earth as long as they are required. They would just take leave of the people to rise again and again from the same soil – from the womb of Dhartimata. Jesus too resurrected after crucifixion. But the Indian gods incarnate again and again. In the form of idol Vinayak would come back every year on Ganesh Chaturthi to bless the people with his wisdom. Rise to the occasion. There is something beyond the revelries of the ten days. Be awake to the wisdom that he distributes among all who have based the socio, national spectrum on the pillar of faith that binds all the people in one strong bond.