‘Chaturthi’, the birthday of Lord Ganesha is one of the most popular Hindu festivals. It is celebrated on the fourth day of the fortnight of Bhadrapada (August-September), in accordance with the lunar calendar. The festival is observed throughout India, as well as throughout the Globe. This festival holds a special noteworthy place in the hearts of every Goan. It is an occasion of immense fun, community building and celebration. More importantly, this festival is the reason for the coming together of family and friends, exchanging gifts and rejoicing while they celebrate the birth of dear Lord Ganesh.
As tradition has it, idols of Lord Ganesha are worshipped for 1.5, 5, 7, 9, 11 or 21 days in the month of ‘Bhadrapada’ after which they are solemnly immersed in a lake, temple tank, well or sea. The immersion carried out on the day of ‘Anant Chaturdashi’ marks the end of this most awaited festival of the Hindu community in Goa and everywhere. If Lord Ganesh is the family deity (Kul Dev), then the said family cannot venerate an idol of Him but can only perform a puja of a picture frame bearing His Photograph which is replaced annually. On this day, each married woman of the family (except widows) place five coconuts called ‘vaina’ (the coconuts have to be cleaned and de husked), each of which decorated with five beads woven onto a thread and symbolically marked with turmeric powder or kumkum, into a basket with an oil lamp in the center. The basket with the coconuts was placed in front of Lord Ganesh for the specified days (generally 1.5 days) or until ‘Thai’ (ceremony honoring the parents of Lord Ganesh) and then offered back to the women of the house. The coconut would be used to prepare a sweet dish.
Radiya Mahale from Mala, Panjim says, “Our family annually venerates the idol of Lord Ganesha for a duration of one and a half day. On the first day, an offering (faral) of twenty-one modaks and five Kaji (sweets) is made to the Lord of wisdom. They conduct the arti and naivedya twice in a day. Further, she adds, “The family follows a practice that not every Hindu family generally follow. In our house, the idol of Lord Ganesha venerated in the current year is immersed in coming year and not during the same year as generally observed in most Hindu families. The idol remains in the house for the whole year, where it is placed in a space created especially for it just outside the prayer room (Deva kudd).” In the following year, the idol of the previous year is immersed into their family well, right in their backyard. Food items prepared at Radiya’s home include Nevreo, Modak, Bhatat Kapam etc.
Lord Ganesh is invoked by every Goan Hindu, before commencing any prayer. His multiple names are chanted before any auspicious work is initiated or before any kind of worship is commenced. He is believed to be the Lord of wisdom and power and is the eldest son of Lord Shiva. By invoking blessings Lord Ganesh, mothers hope to earn for their sons the sterling virtues of the Lord of wisdom. He is worshipped as several incarnations, eight of them being very much popular as ‘Ashtavinayaks’ spread all over India but mostly in the state of Maharashtra.
There are many legends surrounding his origin. One of these, mentions Him being a creation of Goddess Parvati and He who got beheaded for not obeying his very own father, Lord Shiva’s orders of letting him in to visit Parvati. It is said that, Goddess Gauri (consort of Lord Shiva), created Ganesha as a pure white being out of the clay from Her Body and placed Him at the entrance of their house. She asked Him not to allow anyone to enter while she went inside for a bath. Incidentally, Lord Shiva Himself was returning home quite thirsty and was stopped by Ganesha at the gate. To this, Shiva turned furious and cut off Ganesha’s head as He thought Ganesha was a stranger and was not at all aware that the young boy was his very own son.
When Gauri got to know of this whole incident, she was heartbroken. To console her grief, Shiva commended His servants to cut off and bring to Him the head of any creature that might be sleeping with its head facing the north and backing his mother. The servants went on their assigned mission and found only an elephant in that position. The sacrifice was thus made and the elephant’s head was brought to Shiva. He then joined the elephant’s head onto the body of Ganesha. Lord Ganesh has a mouse as His mode of transport and is known for His liking of modaks, which are offered to Him on every occasion, whether it be Chaturthi, Sankashti or Vinayaka Chaturthi.
Arya Karande from Panjim says, “One day prior to the installation of the Ganesh idol, Brahmin Hindu families honor the parents of Lord Ganesh i.e. Parvati and Shiv Shankar, on an occasion called ‘Thai’ as the women of the house fast. On this day, Parvati being pregnant, all offerings made to her are devoid of salt. Also, no fire crackers are burnt on this day for the same reason.” Arya further explains, “For as many days as the Ganesh idol is venerated, there are artis sung before lunch and dinner. These artis may be honoring various gods and goddesses like Ganpathi, Shankar and Laxmi. In the morning after getting up on an empty stomach, before consuming anything, family members, are required to make an offering of flowers (red Hibiscus) and Durva (Scutch grass), chant the multiple names of Lord Ganesh, seek His blessings and proceed with other household works. Complete vegetarian diet is maintained during the days the idol is worshiped. Not even onion and garlic is permitted. Lunch and dinner is served on the floor in front of the idol, where the family members sit and eat together. Families generally have the idol for one and a half day or five days. However, on special occasions of thanksgiving like for example, if a couple is blessed with a child or if someone in the family was blessed with a job, then the family may choose to venerate the idol for seven days after following needed religious protocols. In the evening, women of the house perform dance called ‘Fugrhi’ or ‘Fugdi’ in front of the Ganesh idol”.
Another interesting ritual followed by people, Arya mentions is that, they abstain from looking at the moon on the first day of Ganesh Chaturthi. The story goes that Lord Ganesh was travelling home on his vehicle i.e. the rat. On his way, the rat spotted a snake and shook in fear. Due to the frightful tremble of the rat, Lord Ganesh fell down on the ground. Looking at him fall, the moon up in the sky had a hearty laugh enjoying the whole scene. Lord Ganesh got angry at the Moon for laughing at him and at once cursed the Moon saying that no one would look at it on the day he goes to his house (the house of those who venerate him) and those who did, would be struck with misfortune.