This is a ten-day festival, dedicated to Ganesha. Celebrated from the fourth to the fourteenth day in the bright fortnight of Bhadrapad, it is especially important in Maharashtra and is one of the cultural highlights of the state.
The festival begins on the fourth day of Bhadrapad, which is celebrated as Ganesha Chaturthi in the rest of India. This day is very important to all Hindus, who believe that by praying to the remover of obstructions, people hope to dispel all obstacles from their lives. Some people believe that this was the day Ganesha was born.
The most popular belief how ever, is based on a story in Skanda Purana. Once Ganesha was invited for a feast in Chandralok. The god, known for his ravenous appetite, stuffed himself with ladoos. When he got up to walk after the meal, he could not balance because of his huge stomach and stumbled. As he fell, his stomach burst and all the ladoos came rolling out. The moon could not resist and began laughing. Enraged, Ganesha cursed the moon, causing him to vanish from the universe. However because of the moon’s absence, the whole world began to wane. So the gods asked Shiva to persuade Ganesha to relent. The repentant moon also apologized for his misbehavior. On Shiva’s intervention, Ganesha modified his curse. He announced that the moon would be invisible on only one day of a month, and would be partially seen for the Ganesha Utsav most part.
It would however, be visible in its full glory only once a month as well. Since the incident occurred on the fourth day of Bhadrapad, he also added that anyone who looked at the moon on the fourth day of any month, especially of Bhadrapad, would be falsely accused of some wrongdoing.
The day is also called Dagadi Chautha, or ‘stone-throwing fourth day’, in some places, stemming from the belief that if one inadvertently sees the moon on that night, one should throw stones on his neighborÂ’s roof to avert any calamity arising from the curse. In Maharashtra, the great festival of Ganesha begins on this day, with his idol being ceremonially installed. The next ten days, before the beginning of the inauspicious dark half of the month, are spent in praying to the god. These days are considered especially auspicious due to Ganesha’s presence in the idol. Vighneshvar, the remover of obstacles, reciprocates by using his powers all through the year.
Before the ten-day rite begins, the house and devotees must acquire a superlative state of purity. Cleaning or whitewashing the house or at least the place where the idol is to be placed accomplishes this. Worshippers bathe and the priest wears a silken lower garment, usually red, with a shawl around his shoulders. The puja begins at the time designated according to calculations based on the ritual calendar. The ceremony begins by placing the image, usually made of terracotta, in a sacred arena, symbolic of a throne. The worshipper then sips holy water and performs pranayama; he then bows and prostrates before Ganesha and all the other gods.