Chant the mantra to Lord Ganesha to seek his divine blessings-

Vakratunda mahakaya surya koti samprabha,

Nirvighnam Kurume deva sarva karyeshu sarvada.

A mini-Maharashtra is recreated in Delhi every Ganesh Chaturthi in the form of dozens of Ganesha pandals. The celebrations have grown more lavish over the decades with budgets shooting higher and higher, fancy glitz pandals and Bollywood artistes flown in from Mumbai. Stiff competition among people celebrating the festivity ensures to come up with the most unusual of themes to grab eyeballs of visitors.

This year, 25 August marks the beginning of Ganesh festival. The festival begins on Shukla Chaturthi (the fourth day of waxing moon period) and ends on Anant Chaturdashi (the 14th day of the waxing moon period). During the ten-day long celebration, colourful temporary shrines are set up as a public event. This tradition was started since the time of Maratha King Shivaji but a public Ganesha idol was installed by Bhausaheb Laxman javale for the first time. Lok Manya Tilak changed the festival from private event to a grand public affair to make Brahmins and non-brahmins come closer.

There are four main showcases of puja:

Pranapratishhtha: The process of infusing the deity into an idol.

Shhodashopachara: 16 forms of paying tribute to Ganesha.

Uttarpuja: Puja after which the idol can be shifted after its infusion.

Visarjan: Immersion of the idol in sea or river.

During the festival, most families install a Ganesha murty for two to eleven days in their respective homes. During this time, prayers are performed and hymns are sung every morning and evening. All prayers start with the innovation “Shree Ganeshaaya Namah” meaning “Salutation to you Ganesha”. Generally, the Ganesha utsav celebrations continue for ten days. However, some devotees celebrate this festival for one, three, five, seven and even twenty one days as per their own wish. It is one of the most important festivals of Hindu culture.

Modak plays a significant role in puja ceremony at the time of bhog. The plate containing the modak is supposed to be filled with 21 pieces of the sweet. This ritual is believed to fulfil the desires of devotees. Offering white flowers to the Lord brings success and fame, presenting green grass in lotus feet of deva can bring good luck, prosperity and children. According to Ganesha Purana, the placement of the sun and the moon on Chaturthi is in a manner that it encourages us to do the things that can be detrimental to our progress. To avoid such situations, ‘vighnaharta’ Lord Ganesha is worshipped on this day. The God of wisdom was created by Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati on request of the other devas to be a ‘vighnaharta’.

Starting from the main show of bringing Ganesha idol to home-to-the-religious-rituals, decoration of pandals, lavish food, modak prasad- everything spells rootedness and fervour of the festival. For Maharashtrian folks, it is experiencing a Maharashtra away from Maharashtra and witnessing Ganesha puja as it is celebrated there in their home town.

This is the busiest time of the year for idol makers in Delhi/NCR. They work under different challenging circumstances, battling harsh summer and heavy rain to create the idols in time for the festivities. The process begins few months before the festival when people from different parts of Delhi/NCR start placing orders. The cost of idols varies depending upon size and design. Smaller idols cost Rs.1,000-Rs.2,000 and bigger ones come for anything between Rs.5,000 – Rs.25,000. Devotees visit to idol makers one day before Ganesh Chaturthi to collect the idols. Most of the customers prefer ‘POP’ idols because they’re more attractive and weigh less. With the rising trend to ‘go green’, green Ganesha have also captured the market with a big bang. They’re made of eco-friendly material like clay and paper Mache and are painted with natural colours. These are biodegradable, light weight and keep water in which they are immersed, clean. These Ganesha idols are decorated with wood and cloth.

However, much the times may have changed and fast Delhi may be growing, we still take Ganesha idols for immersion to Yamuna ghat in a simple way. Ganesh Chaturthi has just got a lot more fun for Delhiites. It is no more the affair of few lanes inviting one and all to be a part of celebrations. Walk through different locations in the city and NCR, the magnificient pandals designed as per interesting themes will be awaiting you. So, this Ganesh Chaturthi discover the new, popular destinations.

How Ganesh Chaturthi has spread its influence in a city not known for celebrating this annual festival? The celebration of the Ganesh festival in Delhi is not an isolated development but must be seen in the context of the rising trend of people displaying their religious identities in a more pronounced way with every passing year.

Over the years one has got used to see such a sight for a variety of religious festivals ranging from Durga puja to Eid embracing every community. Perhaps, religion has become the primary basis of social identity over the sub-nationalities like Marathi, Bihari and Punjabi etc. At least in Delhi, there is a rising trend of sections of the majority community not losing a single opportunity to display their identity. This explains why Delhiites have witnessed the emergence of Ganesh festival.

Offer your true prayers to Lord Ganesha this Ganesh chaturthi and ask his forgiveness for the mistakes you have made. My Lord Ganesha, I have faith in you that you’ll protect me from all the evils forever.