Vinayaka Chaturthi, also known as Vinayaka Chavithi and Ganesh Chaturthi, is a widely celebrated festival in India. It comes on the fourth day (Chaturthi) of the bright fortnight of Bhadrapada month of Hindu calendar, which is in August- September. Lord Ganesha is widely worshipped as the supreme god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. This year (2009) Vinayaka Chavithi (Ganesha) festival falls on 23rd August.
The significance of Vinayaka Chaturthi is that it is the celebration of the birth day of elephant faced Hindu god Ganesh. In some parts of South India (Andhra Pradesh), this festival is celebrated for 10 days. The celebration of the festival ends with the immersion of the idol on Anantha Chaturdashi Day, which is on September 3.
Lord Ganesh is worshipped first in any prayers. He is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi, and the brother of Lord Karthikeya (Subramanya).
Ganesh Festival is celebrated in Maharashtra in a grand way. It is celebrated for ten days. These days are full of joy and festivity and cultural programs are the part of this festival. During the struggle for independence, Indian freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak made it a public festival, for the unity of people.
Ganesha's Idols are the main attraction of this festival and the localities compete with each other to make their best. On the last day of the celebration, the idol is taken out in procession and immersed in sea.
According to Hindu mythology, Lord Ganesha is the remover of all obstacles that stand in your spiritual path.
Some of the important aspects of Vinayaka Chaturthi rituals in India are fasting, feasting and distribution of sweets. Modakam (a sweet dish stuffed with jaggery and coconut) is Ganesha's favorite sweet. After the ritual worship, these sweets are distributed as "prasadams" (sacred food) to the people present there.
1. Once Ganesh and his brother Karthikeyan had a dispute as to who was the elder of the two, and the matter reached their father Lord Shiva. He decided that whoever goes around the world and comes back first will be declared as the winner.
Karthikeya immediately flew on his vehicle, the peacock, to tour around the world, but Ganesha went around His Divine parents, and came back and asked for his prize. The wise Ganesh justified it saying His parents represent the entire manifested universe. Thus, Lord Ganesh became the elder son.
2. On one of His birthdays, Ganesha was going around house to house accepting his favorite offerings of sweet dishes. Suddenly his vehicle, the mouse stumbled down seeing a snake and Lord Ganesh fell down, which made the moon laugh at him. Annoyed, he cursed the moon that no one should look at the moon on the Ganesh Chaturthi day. If anyone does, he will earn a bad name.
In Karnataka, before the day of Ganesh Chaturthi, people indulge themselves in Gowri Pooja. On this auspicious day, Goddess Parvathi, mother of Lord Ganesh, is worshipped, especially by married women, for the longevity of their marriage and to achieve marital bliss.