Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati is widely worshipped as the munificent God of wisdom. Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival in his honor and is celebrated in the states of Maharashtra , Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
Started by Chhattrapati Shivaji, the great Maratha ruler, to disseminate culture and nationalism, the festival was given a new impetus by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak to spread the message of freedom struggle and to defy the British who had banned public assemblies. The festival infused the Indians with a sense of unity and revived their patriotic spirit
The Ganesh idols are kept for one and a half, five, seven or ten days and then the 'Ganesh Visarjan' are performed, whereby the idols are immersed in seawater.
Freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak started the custom of 'Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav' (public festival) in Maharashtra , during the Indian Independence fight against the British. The aim behind this was to bring the people close to each other. From then on, this festival is celebrated in almost every lane, housing society and area in Maharashtra and thus making Ganesh Chaturthi a public festival. Huge 'pandaals' or stages are set up and decorated beautifully and people worship the idol of Lord Ganesh together.
To appreciate this occasion, one must go to Mumbai where preparations begin months in advance. Images of Ganesha are installed within homes as well as in places of assembly. Elaborate arrangements are made for lighting and decoration and Ganesha is fervently worshipped for about 7-10 days. On the day of the Chaturthi, the last of the days dedicated to the elephant-headed god, thousands of processions converge on the beaches of Mumbai to immerse the holy idols in the sea. This immersion is accompanied by drumbeats, devotional songs and dancing.
Every year, the largest Ganesh idol is installed at Khairatabad in Hyderabad , which is more than 30 ft tall.