The most auspicious and important festival of the Hindu community in Goa is Ganesh Chaturthi – also known as Chovoth. The Ganesha Chaturthi festival usually falls on the 4th day of Bhadarva Shukla-Paksh of Hindu calendar in August/September. Observed as the birthday of the Lord Ganesha in the Hindu pantheon, Ganesh Chaturthi festival is marked by traditional fervour and gaiety.
Ganesh Chaturthi is symbolized by the worship of clay idols of Lord Ganesha. It’s celebrated for a minimum two days and can go up to 21 days. The clay idols come in various sizes, and are very intricately painted. Preparations for the festival begin days in advance. Men get busy with decorating houses while women start preparing sweets.
During Chathurti, Women fast as a mark of sacrifice and offer fruits, betel nuts, coconut, mango leaves and other ingredients. The ‘Aarti’ is carried out twice a day. At the end of the celebration the idols are immersed in water, either in the sea or wells in the hope that Lord Ganesha will return to their houses in the coming year.
The Ganesha legends
There are two legends about Ganesha’s birth. The first one states that Goddess Parvati created Ganesha out of dirt off her body while having a bath and asked him to guard her door while she bathes. Shiva returned at that time, but as Ganesha didn’t know him, he stopped him from entering.
An angry Shiva severed Ganesha’s head after a combat between the two. That enraged Parvathi, so Shiva promised to bring Ganesha back to life. The devas who went in search of a head facing north of a dead person could manage only the head of an elephant. Shiva fixed the elephant’s head on the child and brought him back to life.
The second legend has it that Ganesha was created by Shiva and Parvati on request of the Devas, to be an obstacle-creator in the path of Rakshasas, and a obstacle-averter to help the Devas.
The Grand Celebration
A life-like clay sculpture of Lord Ganesha is made a couple of months before the day of Ganesh Chaturthi. The size of this idol differs. On the day of the festival, it is placed on raised platforms for people to view and pay their homage. The priest, usually clad in saffron dhoti and shawl, then invokes life into the idol amidst the chanting of mantras.
Coconut, jaggery, 21 modaks, 21 durva blades and red flowers are offered. Throughout the ceremony religious hymns are chanted during different times of the day. Even though the religious observations are held for a couple of days, the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations continues for up to ten days. On the last day of the festival, the ritual of Visarjan takes place when the idol of Ganesh is carried in a joyous procession and is finally immersed in a water body.
The Ganesh Chaturthi festival ushers in a season of joyous celebration all over Goa. Besides the religious significance, the festival is an occasion for family members to reunite and seek the blessings of Lord Ganesha. People of all communities visit their Hindu friends to join in the celebration. Women are elegantly dressed in ethnic wear while men are at their formal best.
Food during Ganesh Chaturthi in Goa
Modaks are considered the favourite sweets of Lord Ganesha and often served as Naivedhyam or Bhog to Lord Ganesha. There are many types of modaks prepared during Ganesh Chaturthi. But the most popular modak in Goa is the steamed modak made from rice flour. Along with modak, ladoos like coconut ladoo, besan ladoo, sabudana ladoo, boondi ladoo, rava ladoo or nevereos are offered as a bhog.
Food is served the traditional way on banana leaves – and eaten by sitting on the floor. Most of the food includes vegetarian items. A variety of locally available vegetables and lentils are served with rice and puris.
Sarvnojanik Ganesh Installations to visit in Goa
Every household in Goa celebrates the Ganesh Festival very vividly. However there are some beautiful Ganesh Installations in Goa worth paying a visit to, during this festival. The best Ganesh installations can be seen in Marcel & Cumbarjua where Sri Ram Mandir, Cumbarjua & Marshel Kala, Premi, Marcel are two places that host great installations.
In the capital of Goa, one can visit the Hanuman Temple at Altinho, the Police Station Headquaters & Boca de Vaca to take a look at the most artistic installations of Lord Ganesh in Panjim.