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Ganesha Jayanti, Lord of Beginnings

Figure of Gaṇeśa, 13th century, schist, 119 cm high © Trustees of the British Museum. Typically corpulent and holding a bowl of sweets, the god is shown standing on a lotus pedestal at the base of which crouches his rat "vahana." His anklets are of snakes, as is the sacred thread wound across his chest. The arch within which he stands is of a standard Indian decorative type with a lion mask (kirttimukha) at the top, and aquatic monsters (makaras) at each end.

The remover of obstacles

The elephant-headed Ganesha is renowned throughout India as the Lord of Beginnings, and both the placer and the remover of obstacles. It is for this reason that he is worshipped before any new venture is begun, when his benediction is essential. Temporary statues are created every year for the Ganeshchaturthi festival in Mumbai, and are placed in public or domestic shrines before being immersed in water at the end of the celebrations.
February 3, 2014 was the Hindu festival of Ganesha Jayanti, Ganesha’s birthday. The main annual Ganesha festival, Ganeshchaturthi, is celebrated in August-September, but this is another significant time for worshipers of Ganesha.
A contemporary statue of Ganesha from Mumbai © Trustees of the British Museum
Different traditions celebrate Ganesha Jayanti (Ganesha’s birthday) on different days. It is usually observed in the month of Magha (January-February) on the fourth day of Shukla paksha, the bright fortnight or waxing moon in the Hindu calendar, particularly in the Indian states of Maharashtra and Karnataka. The celebrations of Ganesha Jayanti in the month of Magha are simple, with devotees observing a fast. Before worship, devotees take bath of water mixed with til (sesame seeds) after smearing a paste of the same substance on their body.
Domestic shrines and temples are decorated for the occasion. Special offerings are made to the permanent Ganesha images which are worshipped daily. In some places Ganesha is symbolically worshipped in the form of a cone made of turmeric or cow dung. Food offerings of ladoos (sweet balls) made of til and jaggery (sugar) are offered with great devotion. In some households and temples small images of Ganesha are placed in cradles and worshipped.
The practical reason for making offerings prepared of til and jaggery or applying sesame paste to the body is that when this festival is celebrated it is mid-winter and the body requires high energy supplements. The devotees consider their beloved Ganesha as human being and offer preparations of sesame and sugar to provide energy and keep the body warm.
The Ganesha Jayanti festival (Magha shukla Chaturthi) is publicaly celebrated in a relatively small number of places, where specially-created clay images of Ganesha are worshipped and immersed in the sea or river after 11 or 21 days. During this month the devotees go on a pilgrimage to one of the many Ganesha temples across India. In Maharashtra there are eight places which are particularly sacred to Ganesha, known as Ashtavinaykas (Ashta means eight and Vinayaka is one of the many names of Ganesha) and the pilgrimage is known as Ashtavinayaka yatra. These are at Morgaon, Theur, Lenyadri, Ozar, Ranjangaon, Siddhatek, Pali and Mahad.
Manisha Nene, Assistant Director, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)
Suggested readings:
P.B. Courtright, Ganesa: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings (Oxford, 1985).
P. Mitter, Much Maligned Monsters: A history of European reactions to Indian Art (University of Chicago Press, 1992).
R.L. Brown, Ganesha: Studies of an Asian God (Albany, 1991).
P. Pal, Ganesh the benevolent (Bombay, Marg, 1995).
© Trustees of the British Museum

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  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user James Harry
    For those curious, in Hinduism, cows are regarded as sacred animals, and as such anything that comes from it would be considered sacred as well. Hence whilst it may be alarming to those unaware of this that " In some places Ganesha is symbolically worshipped in the form of a cone made of turmeric or cow dung.", it is something that is actually quite respectful.
    (3 votes)
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  • hopper jumping style avatar for user Annika S.
    How does Ganesha have 4hands
    (1 vote)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Subhomoy Haldar
      Ganesha is an Indian god, he is a belief in people. So this question can have many mythical answers, search the web for accurate ones(though they might have been a little edited through the years). Also, why do you think Durga has 10 hands?
      P.S - Durga is the mother of Ganesha and his brothers and sisters, Kartik, Saraswati and Lakshmi.
      (2 votes)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user sahithisrim
    Why do we need to put immerse Ganesha in into the water after Ganesha Jayanti?
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Dipawali  Patel
    Who is lord Ganesha?

    lord ganesha is a elephant god Once his dad lord shiva was so angry because lord ganeshas mum told him don't let anyone in
    anyone in im changing so lord shiva thew his stick and killed
    lord ganesha
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Dipawali  Patel
    Who is hindu here write your names down so I can help you with some answers please
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Skye1997
    Why cow dung or a turmeric and what is a turmeric
    (0 votes)
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  • primosaur ultimate style avatar for user prithvi.vashisht
    Ganesh is really just a boy wh had an elphant head instead.
    Not going into his history.
    (0 votes)
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    • starky sapling style avatar for user mandadia9198
      Who is Ganesh the Hindu god?

      Ganesh (also spelled Ganesa or Ganesha and known as Ganapati, Vinayaka and Pillaiyar) is the Lord of Good Fortune who provides prosperity, fortune and success. He is the Lord of Beginnings and the Remover of Obstacles of both material and spiritual kinds.

      Why does Ganesh have four arms?

      Ganesha has the head of an elephant and a big belly. This statue has four arms, which is common in depictions of Ganesha. He holds his own broken tusk in his lower-right hand and holds a delicacy, which he samples with his trunk, in his lower-left hand.

      How many arms does Ganesha have?

      The number of Ganesha's arms varies; his best-known forms have between two and sixteen arms. Many depictions of Ganesha feature four arms, which is mentioned in Puranic sources and codified as a standard form in some iconographic texts.

      What is GANPATI?

      info)), also known as Ganapati and Vinayaka, is one of the best-known and most worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon. His image is found throughout India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Hindu sects worship him regardless of affiliations. Devotion to Ganesha is widely diffused and extends to Jains and Buddhists.
      (1 vote)