Ganesha could be considered as the most endearing form of all Hindu deities. Though His worship forms the most important aspect of one's daily puja, His birthday, Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated grandly with devotion and delight.
Significance of His name 'Ganesha'
The term Ganesha stems from the root 'Gana' which means the hosts or troops of demigods especially referring to the retinue of Lord Shiva and the term 'Isha' means 'ruler' or 'lord'. Hence the term Ganesha means “the Lord of the demigods"
There are a few legends attributed to the birth or rather the manifestation of Ganesha. However the most popular one is that He was formed by Parvati from the material of Her own body. She then commissioned Ganesha to guard while she had her bath. It is said that the steadfast Ganesha did not allow entry to Lord Shiva Himself and the enraged Lord sent His Ganas or demigods to vanquish Ganesha. Since the Ganas had to embrace defeat, as Ganesha was formed out of Mother Sakhti (Parvati who stands for power), Lord Shiva had to tackle Him directly and in the ensuing battle, severed the head of Ganesha which enraged the Mother.
Lord Shiva then ordered His Ganas to proceed westward and come with the head of anything that they happened to see first. It so happened that it was an elephant and its head was fitted to the body of Parvati's manifested son.
Shiva then declared Ganesha as the leader of His retinue and henceforth be worshipped first in the beginning of all religious activities for fruitful results to ensue.
Ganesha Chaturthi Puja
Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated across the country irrespective of religion caste and creed. Lord Ganesha is invoked in a Kalash or an idol of the Lord is installed in the house. Pooja is carried out with Vedic mantras, Homas, archana and offerings of His favourite Modhak, puffed rice, sweets and jaggery according to each one's mode of worship. Some wind up the worship in a day or two while others carry it on for a week. On the final day of worship, the Ganesha statue made out of clay is dissolved in a water body or the water from the Kalash is also mixed in a water body.
Significance of Ganesha Chaturthi
All Indian festivals, beneath the aspect of delight and celebration, hold the underlying essence or the spirit which has to be captured to grasp the eternal truth. So it is with Ganesha Chaturthi.
The very story of Ganesha's manifestation holds the essence of Advaita Vedanta. He has been manifested out of the divine essence of (Parvati). This is a reminder that we all are made up of the same, all pervading essence or the spirit though we may vary owing to the disparities in shape and form.
Ganesha is the manifested form of the divine. The formless divine is ever present though it takes on a manifestation or a form,owing to our identification of ourselves with a form. Having manifested with a form, the divine also assumes a name due to our association with a form and our wrong notion of separate existence, in order to distinguish ourselves from others.
The truth or the essence is but one, the formless spirit that pervades all destroys the disparities. The celebration of Ganesha Chaturti reveals that while we worship the divine with the form, we ought to bear in mind our formless reality. This is depicted in the elaborate worship that is carried out on Gnaesha Chaturti and finally dissolving the form that we endear in a water body in remembrance of the divine as the formless reality even beyond the manifested form.
It is not to be considered that worship of forms do not have any value. Since we identify ourselves with a form it is imperative to seek the truth with a manifested form in order to proceed to realise the formless reality. This ultimately merges oneself with the realisation of one's true self, the formless reality thereby in eternal mergence with the divine.
Let us thus pray to Lord Ganesha to guide us to worship Him in His glorious form and to lead us to the eternal formless truth which is Sat (Truth), Chit (Knowledge), Ananda (Eternal bliss).