GANESH IS THE FOREMOST GOD OF THE HINDU PANTHEON.The god with the elephant head is the second son of Shiv and Parvati ( in south India he is regared as the first son). He was born on Sukul Paksh Chouth in the month of Bhadon (which falls sometimes in September of the European calendar) and is known as Ganesh Chaturthi, He was born in Kashi in the home of his maternal grandparents Himachal and Maina while Lord Shiv had gone to Mount Kailash for tapasya.Ganesh is worshipped first on all auspicious occasions, whether it is a marriage or a religious function.
LORD KRISHNA, THE EIGHTH AVTAR OF VISHNU WAS BORN IN the Duapar Yug which came just before Kal Yug (the yug in which we find ourselves today). His birthday falls on the Ashtami of Krishna Paksh or the 8th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Bhadon (eight days after Raksha Bandhan), some time in July or August, according to the English calendar. This is during the rainy season and is known as Janam Astami.This festival is celebrated on two days, once on the actual day of his birth in prison at Mathura, and then on the very next day on his being discovered in the house of Nand and Yashoda at Gokul.
Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu, is always placed along with Ganeshji. Because we love Lakshmi (wealth) and are ever worried about annoying her, to be on the safe side we worship her along with Ganesh. Since she cannot precede him, she sits next to him; she is never neglected. She is always placed to the right of him as she is like a mother to him.Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated all over India, but the people of Maharashtra have made Lord ganesh their patron. Lokmanya Tilak realized that community celebrations would bring people together and he started the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in a big way, making it into a community affair - Ganesh became the beloved of the people of Maharashtra. The Maharashtrians celebrate this festival like the Bengali do Durga puja and the Oriyas Rath Yatra.
The people offer prasad of moodak (a special type of laddoo) or peras at the pandal, at least one red flower- preferably hisbisus- a bunch of three sheaves of grass, collected and tied together or many sheaves forming a bigger bunch, kumkum and haldi and rice along with the mithai. This prasad is easily available near the pandals or at special puja shops. Those who can made prasad at home make the special preparations known as moodak. Generally moodak is offered as prasad to the household deity and peras are taken to the community centre.
In certain cases there is a tradition of getting an idol of Lord ganesh installed in a home and the community can come there to pray. Some, however, instal an idol only for the family and have the puja done by a pandit. If a pandit is not available then, of course, the eldest member of the family does the rituals after installing a small murti. This is done with great sancity. Everyone persent in the house bathes and wears clean clothes. A table or chowki is placed against a wall in the puja room or any room which can be cordoned off for the duration of the puja.
Ganesh is worshipped in Maharashtra in his mature form. His idols are not dressed with actual clothes, but clothes are painted onto idols. The clothes are painted in red. The torso has an angavastra, jewellery covers the neck and reaches right up to the stomach, and the lower part has a yellow or red dhoti. Ganeshji's stomach protrudes as he loves good food.
There is a story connected to Lord Ganesh's eating habits. Long ago, he cursed the moon for making fun of him for eating too many sweets and that is why the moon cannot maintain its full form all the time; it waxes and wanes making it less beautiful and at times it vanishes altogether. The story teaches us not to make fun of anyone. Ganeshji always wears a tiara or a crown on his head and a belt round his stomach to keep the garments from slipping off.the belt is in the form of snake which he inherited from his father, Lord Shiva,who has serpent hanging allover him.
Ganesh seems to have been born at a time when Shivji was not with Parvati; he had gone for tapasya to Mount Kailash, and Parvati was with her parents at Kashi. Parvati had not informed Shankar Bhagwan about the birth of their second son. She did not even tell her son the identity of his father. Shivji also did not seem to know that a child was born to Parvati who after his birth threw Ganesh in the Ganga insheer anger - but gangaji saved him and gave him back alive to Parvati. Ever since then he is known to be a devta with two mothers.
Without knowing Shiviji, Ganesh grew up into a lovely little boy. One day, when Parvati went for a bath, little Ganesh was asked to stand at the entrance of the baori and not let anyone moment Shivaji came back from his tapasya and,finding out where his wife was, made straight for the baori and decided to go down to the water. Ganesh, little as he was, stopped him and stopped right in front of him. This annoyed Shivji very much; he ordered Ganesh to step aside. Ganeshji did not budge and Shivji's anger got the better of him. He chopped off Ganesh's head. Thenoise and commotion brought Parvati out of her bath and she hurried to where the noise came from and saw, to her great anguish, what Shivji had done. She was very angry, and told Shivji in no uncertain terms that he had killed his own son. Shivji was horrified and promised to set things right at once. In the meantime, one of his doots had run off with his son's head and it could not be located. Shivji then promised Parvati that he would put the head of the first living thing that came his way on the shoulders of his son. As luck would have it, it was an elephant that found his way there. Shivji cut off its head and put it on Ganesh's shoulders. Ganesh came alive but it was a very strange Ganesh! Parvati was all the more angry and she set up a lament. No one would pay attention to her little son and no one would even worship him as a devta, she said. Shankarji declared then and there that Ganesh would be worshipped first, before all the other gods. No puja, festival or marriage would be celebrated in future without invoking the name of Ganesh in all the three worlds. Lord Shiv is himself the 'Supreme' and his word is law; therefore, Ganesh pujan is to be done first, even on Shivratri. The other gods didn't appreciate this so they went to Brahmaji and asked for his help, as they felt that justice demanded that the most intelligent and clever amongst them should be worshipped first. Brahmaji told them that since Lord Shiv is one of the holy trinity and that each of the trinity (Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh) holds another of the trinity as equal, he could not alter the verdict: only Shivji could do so. All of them then went to Shivji and asked him to test their intelligence before deciding on such an important issue. Shivji was fair-minded and he asked them to go round the world on their vahans (vehicles) and whoever came first would be the one to be worshipped first. Everyone,incuding Ganesh, and Kartikeya (Skend), the elder son of Shiv and Parvati, started on their fast vahans, fully confident that Ganesh on his musak (rat) would never be able to compete with them. Ganeshji is reputed to be highly intelligent, and this became apparents; he just went around his parents on his slow musak and declared that as they were the Supreme they were the real world. No one could dispute that; hence he was chosen to be the first to be worshipped by all the gods and men without argument.
Ganesh is worshipped as a mature god in Maharashtra but in most parts of North India he is worshipped as a child. He is full of intelligence and is the giver of buddhi and knowledge. Buddhi is even shown sometimes as his consort although he was married to two dame\sels, Riddhi and Siddhi (success and prosperity).
Children are initiated into study by praying to Ganesh. In Maharashtra, when children start school their first lesson is on Ganesh chaturthi.
Although Saraswati is the goddess of learning, she is prayed to after Ganesh. Ganesh was chosen by Narad to be the stenographer to write down the Mahabharata for posterity, while Vyasji related the tale of his grandsons to him. He chose his broken tusk to write. He told Vyas that he would only write if Vyasji gave the dictation continuously and did not stop or hesitate and waste time. His mother Bhagwati (Parvati) asked Ganesh to use his buddhi while writing also and explain certain points so that the generations to come would understand the great epic as it was meant to be understood.
There is a story explaining why Ganesh has one tusk. Ganesh had two tusks as is usual with elephants, but he had a great fight with Parshuram, when Ganesh laid claims to immortality. There are only seven who are immortal - Hanumanji, Vibhishan, Kripacharya, Parshuram, Ashwathama, Bali, and Ved Vyas (Markande also joined their ranks later). These great men do not die and even when the world dissolves and a new world takes birth they will be here. They are not born again and again. They live on the mighty Himalayas and it is said that some great souls do come across them. Anyway, Ganeshji declared that he was eligible for such a position, but Parshuram was not satisfied and wanted to test him. Parshuram loses his temper at the drop of a hat (as the saying goes), so he declared he would fight with Ganesh; if Ganesh won, only then he would be immortal. There ensued a terrible battle. Parshuram became very ferocious in the heat of the moment and in the process he broke one of Ganeshji's teeth; Ganeshji gave up the idea of being immortal. Therefore, he is born at the beginning when the world is formed and only dies when parlay or the end of world comes.
Ganeshji is the remover of all obstacles, and there is a story connected with this aspect of Ganesh. All the gods and devtas were married and those that were not, were getting ready offers because of their position and good looks. No one was, however, ready to marry his daughter to Ganesh although he was the first amongst all the gods and devtas. His elephantine looks dismayed everyone and no one was ready to give his daughter to him in marriage. So Ganeshji decided to create problems for the other gods and devtas who had the audacity to make fun of him. He asked all the rats and mice to go and make burrows in the path of all those getting married and make it impossible for them to tread the path, thus creating so much confusion in the way that no one could move without falling into one pothole or another. All the gods then rushed off to Brahma and asked him to do something. Brahma went to Ganeshji and asked him to stop creating so much chaos. Ganeshji was adamant and declared that until he got married, he would not let anyone else get married either. Brahmaji in consultation with his wife Saraswati, then created two lovely maidens, Riddhi and Siddhi (success and prosperity), and gave them in marriage to Ganesh. He and Saraswati thereby became the father-in-law and mother-in-law of Ganesh. Ganeshji became very fond of them and did as Brahma had asked him and stopped the rate from creating havoc. He gave the rats the honour of becoming his vahan, the vehicle on which he rides. He thus won the name of Vighnaraja (the Lord of obstacles). He always has a rat under him in all his idols and pictures.