Ganesh Chaturthi is the celebration of the birth of Lord Ganesha, the Hindu elephant – headed God. Lord Ganesha is the God of wisdom and learning. His birthday is celebrated with much fanfare! This festival is most enthusiastically celebrated in the state of Maharashtra, India. Families and communities bring home statues of the Lord Ganesha and honour him for upto 10 days with worship and feasting. They finally immerse the statues into the sea, while chanting “Ganpati bappa morya, pudhchya varshi lavkarya!”. This loosely translated means “Bless us oh Lord Ganesha and come again soon!”.
When is this festival this year? It starts on 25 August and ends on 5 September, 2017.
So how big are these statues? They range in size from tiny to Mumbai’s most famous one that is 18 feet tall this year. That’s almost 2 stories of an average building! He is made in an area of Mumbai called Lalbaug, and that is where he is worshipped for the duration of the festival. Lalbaugcha Raja (The King of Lalbaug) is what he is fittingly called. It is said that going to worship him will get all your wishes fulfilled! It has been reported that a staggering 150,000 people go and pay their respects to him every day during the festival.
Are the statues really immersed in the sea? Yes, you read that right – into the sea.
Why? It is said that Lord Ganesha is so powerful after 10 days of worship that he takes all our sins and suffering along with him while he travels through the water to his home in the heavens. Of course the statues used to be made out of clay, which is a natural substance.
These days, the statues are made of synthetic (man-made) substances, such as plaster of paris. They are also decorated with all kids of paint and glitter. All this collects in the water and pollutes it.
Isn’t there a more responsible way to celebrate Lord Ganesha’s birthday? Sure! You could use statues that are made of eco-friendly materials. You could also immerse them in man made bodies of water that would fulfil the tradition of returning them to water while sparing ocean life.
Some environmental groups have come up with innovative new Ganeshas. One is called Tree Ganesha. It is made with soil and the seeds of plants so that watering it makes a plant grow in place of the statue!
However you end up celebrating Ganesha Chaturthi, we wish you a joyful and environmentally friendly 10 days!