Kristian Bertel | Photography
Archive story
In this archive story we are learning about the Ganesh Chaturthi, which is celebrated many places in India.
Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
Although he is known by many attributes, Ganesha's elephant head makes him easy to identify. Ganesha is widely revered as the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom. As the god of beginnings, he is honoured at the start of rites and ceremonies. Ganesha is also invoked as patron of letters and learning during writing sessions.
Although he is known by many attributes, Ganesha's elephant head makes him easy to identify. Ganesha is widely revered as the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom. As the god of beginnings, he is honoured at the start of rites and ceremonies. Ganesha is also invoked as patron of letters and learning during writing sessions.
Kristian Bertel, Photographer By Kristian Bertel, Photographer
– Updated on March 22, 2024

Ganesh Chaturthi

In India, Ganesh Chaturthi is primarily celebrated at home and in public by local community groups in the central and western states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Goa and the southern states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and eastern states of West Bengal and Odisha. The festival is marked with the installation of Ganesh clay idols privately in homes, or publicly on elaborate pandals on temporary stages. At public venues, along with the reading of texts and group feasting, athletic and martial arts competitions are also held.

Who started Ganesh festival?

The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi finds its origin in the Maratha reign, with Chatrapati Shivaji starting the festival. The belief lays in the story of the birth of Ganesha, the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Although there are various stories attached to his birth, the one most relevant is shared here.

Festival celebration in India
Observations include chanting of Vedic hymns and Hindu texts such as, prayers and 'Brata' which menas fasting. Offerings and 'Prasadam' from the daily prayers, that are distributed from the pandal to the community, include sweets such as 'Modaka' as it is believed to be a favourite of Lord Ganesh and the festival ends on the tenth day after start, when the idol is carried in a public procession with music and group chanting, then immersed in a nearby body of water such as a river or sea. In Mumbai alone, around 150,000 statues are immersed annually. Thereafter the clay idol dissolves and Ganesh is believed to return to Mount Kailash to Parvati and Shiva and there is an interesting story behind the legend of Ganesh visarjan. It is believed that Lord Ganesha returns to Mount Kailash to join his parents Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati on the last day of the festival.

The celebration of 'Ganesh Chaturthi' also denotes the significance of the cycle of birth, life and death. Ganesha, who is also known as the 'Lord of New Beginnings', is also worshipped as the 'Remover of Obstacles'. It is believed that when the idol of the Ganesha is taken out for immersion, it also takes away with it the various obstacles of the house and these obstacles are destroyed along with the 'Visarjan'. Every year, people wait with great anticipation to celebrate the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi.

"In Maharashtra, Ganesh Chaturthi is known as 'Ganeshotsav'. Families install small clay statues for worship during the festival. The 'Murti' is worshiped in the morning and evening with offerings of flowers, Durva which are strands of young grass, 'Karanji' and 'Modaks' which are jaggery and coconut flakes wrapped in rice flour dumplings"

Singing of an 'Aarti'
The worship ends with the singing of an 'Aarti' in honour of Ganesh, other Gods and Saints. In Maharashtra the Marathi 'Aarti' 'Sukhakarta Dukhaharta', composed by the saint, Samarth Ramdas is sung. On the last day of the festival, the tradition of Ganesh Visarjan takes place. The concluding day of the 10-day festival is also popularly known as Ananta Chaturdashi. As the word 'Visarjan' implies, on this day immersion 'Visarjan', which means means immersion of Lord Ganapati's idol takes place in a river, sea or water body. On the last day, the devotees come out in processions carrying the idols of their beloved God and perform immersion.

Ganesh and the meaning of the name
The name Ganesha is a Sanskrit compound, joining the words 'Gana', meaning a 'Group, multitude or categorical system' and 'Isha', meaning 'Lord or master'. The word 'Gana' when associated with Ganesha is often taken to refer to the Ganas, a troop of semi-divine beings that form part of the retinue of Shiva, Ganesha's father. The term more generally means a category, class, community, association or corporation. Some commentators interpret the name 'Lord of the Ganas' to mean 'Lord of Hosts' or 'Lord of created categories', such as the elements.

Ganesha is a popular figure in Indian art. Unlike those of some deities, representations of Ganesha show wide variations and distinct patterns changing over time. He may be portrayed standing, dancing, heroically taking action against demons, playing with his family as a boy or sitting down on an elevated seat or engaging in a range of contemporary situations. Ganesha has been represented with the head of an elephant since the early stages of his appearance in Indian art. Puranic myths provide many explanations for how he got his elephant head.

One of his popular forms, Heramba-Ganapati, has 5 elephant heads and other less-common variations in the number of heads are known. While some texts say that Ganesha was born with an elephant head as seen in Hinduism, he acquires the head later in most stories and the most recurrent motif in these stories is that Ganesha was created by Parvati using clay to protect her and Shiva beheaded him when Ganesha came between Shiva and Parvati. Shiva then replaced Ganesha's original head with that of an elephant and the details of the battle and where the replacement head came from vary from source to source. Another story says that Ganesha was created directly by Shiva's laughter. Because Shiva considered Ganesha too alluring, he gave him the head of an elephant and a protruding belly.

"Ganesha is prominently known as the remover of obstacles and before embarking on any major endeavor be it business ventures, marriages, childbirth or educational pursuits many Hindus seek his blessings. His divine intervention is believed to clear the path, ensuring success and prosperity. Ganesha's images are commonly found in homes, workplaces and even vehicles and these representations serve as constant reminders of his presence and guidance. Whether placed at the entrance of a house or on the dashboard of a car, Ganesha symbolizes protection, wisdom and auspicious beginnings"

Beyond his role as an obstacle remover, Ganesha is also revered as the patron of arts and sciences. Artists, musicians, writers and scholars invoke his blessings before embarking on creative endeavors. His association with intellect and wisdom makes him a cherished companion during writing sessions and academic pursuits. As the god of beginnings, Ganesha is honored at the commencement of various rites and ceremonies. Whether it is a wedding, a housewarming or a religious festival, invoking Ganesha's blessings ensures a smooth and auspicious start.

See this video about Ganesha in India made by Mumbai Mirror.

"- As a traveling photographer in India you can see that Ganesha holds a significant place in the hearts of millions of people across India. As one of the most worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon, Ganesha's presence extends beyond temples and rituals, permeating into the daily lives of his devotees.
Devotion to Ganesha transcends religious boundaries. Not only do Hindus worship him, but his influence extends to Jains, Buddhists and even beyond India. His elephant head and 4 arms make him instantly recognizable and his benevolent presence brings solace to countless hearts. Ganesha's role in everyday life is multifaceted because he removes obstacles, provides guidance, fosters creativity and blesses new beginnings. His omnipresence in homes, workplaces and hearts reflects the enduring love and reverence people hold for this beloved deity", the Photographer says.

Read also:  Hindu temples of India

Hindu temples of India

Read also:  Hindu temples of India

More archive stories

India is a land full of stories. On every street, on every corner and in the many places in India, life is rushing by you as a photographer with millions of stories to be told. In the archive story above, you hopefully had a readable insight in the story that was behind the photo of a Ganesha in Maharashtra. On this website of Kristian Bertel | Photography you can find numerous travel pictures from the photographer. Stories and moments that tell the travel stories of how the photographer captured the specific scene that you see in the picture. The photographer's images have a story behind them, images that all are taken from around India throughout his photo journeys. The archive stories delve into Kristian's personal archive to reveal never-before-seen, including portraits and landscapes beautifully produced snapshots from various travel assignments. The archive is so-far organized into photo stories, this one included, each brought to life by narrative text and full-color photos. Together, these fascinating stories tell a story about the life in India. India, the motherland to many people around the world, a land of unforgetable travel moments. The archive takes viewers on a spectacular visual journey through some of the most stunning photographs to be found in the photographer's archive collection. The photographer culled the images to reflect the many variations on the universal theme of beauty and everyday life in India. By adding these back stories the photographer's work might immensely enhanced the understanding of the photographs.