Ganesh Chaturthi is the celebration of Ganesh's birthday.
It's a 10 day long festival, marked by prayers, religious ceremonies, and large processions which ultimately culminates to a Visarjan on the last day.
Turning this festival into a huge celebration was the brainchild of a freedom fighter named Lokamanya Tilak, as a means to unite Indians against the British, back in 1892.
Ganesh wasn't born with an elephant head. It was essentially "the next best thing" that could be found to replace his (human) head after his father, Shiva, chopped it off in a fit of rage. It could be said that Ganesh was bestowed special powers as a result, to compensate for #dadguilt.
Ganesh Chaturthi aka Ganesh Jayanti aka Ganesh's birthday, is also known as:
Take a guess:
Magha Shukla Chaturthi
All of the above (x)
Once upon a time, Lord Shiva's wife, Parvati, wanted to take a bath without being disturbed. She realized she needed a loyal guard to watch the door.
Using the same turmeric paste -- as used for her bath -- Parvati breathed life into it to create Ganesh.
And just like that, Shiva and Parvati's first son was born.
(Parts of the story have been modified for brevity and simplicity)
When Shiva returned home from his meditation, he was stopped from entering the door by Ganesh.
In a classic case of mistaken identities, Shiva didn't realize Ganesh was his son and vice versa. (To be fair, how could they have known?!). Well, things escalated pretty quickly.
Although Ganesh put up a good fight, he was no match for Shiva's powerful weapon. Do you know what he used to chop off Ganesh's head?
Take a guess:
A flying disc
When Parvati heard the commotion at the front door and saw what had happened, she vowed to destroy the universe. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal except that she actually was powerful enough to do it. (Keep in mind, she created a person out of paste).
Shiva was like... "Babe, relaaaaax. I can totally explain!"
But Parvati was in no mood.
To pacify the situation, Lord Brahma (the creator of the universe) had to step in before (more) rash actions were taken. He asked Parvati what he could do to help.
She asked for two things. Do you know what they were?
1. Ganesh be brought back to life (obviously).
2. Ganesh be worshipped first before all the other Gods.
Shiva agreed to these terms and ordered Nandi, his trusted bull, to bring back the head of the first creature he finds that's separated from his mother and is facing north. Thus, Nandi returned with the head of an elephant.
Shiva breathed life back into Ganesh, now with his new elephant head. To further appease his wife, Shiva appointed Ganseh as the master of wisdom and remover of obstacle.
Have you been wondering...
Of all the Hindu Gods, why is Ganesh the only one with all this birthday fanfare?
Once upon a time, in 1892 (around the time most of our GREAT grandparents were born)...
There was a man named Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
He was an Indian nationalist, and the first leader of the Indian Independence Movement. The British colonial authorities called him "The Father of the Indian unrest."
He's also credited as the architect of present day
Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations.
Tilak saw the need to further unite Indians against the ruling English party, and realized nothing can bond people more than a common idol, equally worshiped by all.
He noticed that Lord Ganesh was considered "the God for everyman," worshipped by the rich and poor, leaders and followers alike.
A "crowd favorite," if you will.
He had an idea:
"What if I popularized Ganesh Chaturthi as a national festival and bridged the gap between the Brahmins and non-Brahmins?"
His idea worked.
You see, the festival had been celebrated as a private family affair prior to then. Tilak wanted to change that. He knew there was power in celebration and faith and devotion.
In 1892, Tilak organized the first Ganesh Utsav as a social and religious function in the streets of Pune and Mumbai. It was he who turned a rate intimate celebration into a grand 10 day spectacle.
Not surprisingly, he's also the man behind the tradition of immersing the huge Ganesh statues in a body of water, on the tenth day of the festival.
The festival instilled a spirit of patriotism among Indians. United by their devotion for Lord Ganesh, they even opposed the Britishers who didn't allow such mass gatherings. The festival served as a meeting place for common people of all castes and communities at a time when public social and political gatherings were banned by the British.