Lord Ganesh or Ganesha is one of the most commonly worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon. Lord Ganesh is also known as Ganapati, Vinayaka, Vigneshwara, Ganesa, Vignesh, and Pillaiyar. Lord Ganesha is depicted as an elephant headed figure with a large belly and four hands. The elder son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, Ganapathi is highly revered as the Remover of Obstacles and Lord of Beginnings, God of Education, Knowledge, Wisdom and Wealth. Lord Ganesh is the one who is worshiped at the beginning of rituals and ceremonies. The name Ganesha is a Sanskrit word, derived from ‘Gana’, meaning a ‘Group or Mass’ and ‘Isha’, meaning Lord or Master. Skanda, also called as Kartikeya or Lord Murugan, is the brother of Ganesha.
Story on how Ganesha Got the Elephant Head
According Shiva Purana, Lord Shiva beheaded the head of Lord Ganesh and later it was replaced with that of an elephant. However, Brahma Vaivarta Purana says that when Ganesha was born, all the gods gathered to see him. Though Lord Shani was also present there, he refused to look at the child. However, on the insistence of Parvati, he looked at the baby which caused its head to be burned to ashes. Then, it was Lord Vishnu who replaced the missed head with that of an elephant.
Popular Festivals of Lord Ganesha
Vinayaka Chaturthi or Ganesha Chaturthi is an important festival dedicated to Lord Ganesh. Also known as Vinayaka Chavithi, the festival commemorates the birthday of the Lord and is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Bhaadrapada (mid August - mid September), starting on the shukla chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon period).
Ganesh Jayanti Festival is also known as Magha Shukla Chaturthi, Vinayak Chaturthi and Varad Chaturthi. This festival also celebrates the birthday of Ganesha. But this is held during the Shukla Paksha Chaturthi day (fourth day of the bright fortnight or the waxing moon) in the month of Maagha (January/February). This festival is more popular, particularly in the Indian state of Maharashtra, where it is called as Tilkund Chaturthi.
During the day, the idol of Ganesha is made from turmeric or sindhoor powder or cow dung and worshipped. The idol is immersed in water on the fourth day after the festival. The lord is offered a special food prepared from sesame seeds. Some devotees observe fast during the day.
Important Temples of Lord Ganesha in India
There are numerous temples dedicated to Lord Ganesh in India. Some of the most popular among them are Ashtavinayak temples, Chintamani Ganesh Temple in Madhya Pradesh; Dhundiraj Temple in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh; Ranthambore Ganesh Temple in Rajasthan; and Ganesha temples in Wai, Maharashtra.
The Ashtavinayak temples on Lord Ganesh - a group of eight Ganesha temples around Pune, Maharashtra – are the most popular Ganesh temples in India. Each of these eight shrines houses a particular form of Ganapati and they form the most important pilgrimage for the devotees. The eight Ashtavinayaka are
1) Moreshwar Temple in Morgaon
2) Siddhivinayak Temple in Siddhatek
3) Ballaleshwar Temple in Pali
4) Varadavinayak Temple in Mahad
5) Chintamani Ganesh Temple in Theur
6) Girijatmaj Temple in Lenyadri
7) Vighnahar Temple in Ozar
8) Mahaganapati Temple in Ranjangaon
Ganesha Temples in Tamil Nadu
Karpaka Vinayakar Temple in Pillayarpatti
Rockfort Ucchi Pillayar Kottai in Tiruchirapalli
Ganesh Temples in Karnataka
Shri Ganapathi Temple Idagunji, Karnataka
Sharavu Mahaganapathi Temple in Mangalore, Karnataka
Ganapathi Temples in Kerala
Maha Ganapathi Temple in Pampa
Pazhavangadi Ganapathi Temple in Thiruvananthapuram
Kottarakkara Ganapathi Temple
Maha Ganapathi Temple in Sulthan Batheri