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What is the Ganesh Chaturthi Festival? - Meaning & History

Instructor: Margaret Moran
This lesson will examine the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. We will look at the history and symbolism of the festival and learn some new and interesting facts about the Hindu religion.

The God Ganesha

Ganesha is the Hindu god depicted as having an elephant head. This god, while known by a staggering 108 different names with the most popular being Ganapati or Vinayaka, is celebrated in Hinduism as both the god of the beginnings as well as the lord of arts and sciences.

The birth or origin of the god Ganesha has two distinct versions. The first is that he was created from the dirt that fell off the goddess Parvati during her bath. Shiva asked Ganesha, then a child, to guard the door as Parvati completed her bath. When the god Shiva, partner to Parvati, returned Ganesha blocked his access to the home causing Shiva to become enraged and chop off his head. Parvati was heartbroken and demanded they find Ganesha a new head by stealing the head of a recently deceased being. They failed and could only find an elephant head, they placed this on the body of the child and the iconic image of Ganesha was born.

The second and less popular version of the genesis of Ganesha says that Shiva and Parvati created him at the behest of the heavenly beings to serve as an obstacle in the path of demonic beings. Not nearly as exciting a story!

History and Meaning of the Festival

The festival designed to honor and commemorate the birth or creation of the God Ganesha has no exact origin date however it is commonly accepted that the first recorded celebration was during the time period of 1630-1680. Once the British invaded, the celebrations were moved to private home celebrations due to the British fear that large religious celebrations would breed chaos and dissent. The festival did not become public again until 1892 when a public Ganesha idol was put on display in Pune, India. The celebration was touted as a way to unite all people of Hindu faith and it spread like wildfire from there.

A celebration of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival

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