The 5th September (this year) sees the celebration of a very special birthday, a celebration which continues for ten days as Hindus (and some Jains and Buddhists) mark the birthday of Lord Ganesha.
Even if you’ve never had much contact with any of the above religions you’ll probably recognise the elephant headed god Lord Ganesha. He is approached to remove of obstacles and is the patron of arts and sciences, as well as the deva of intellect and wisdom. He is also the god of beginnings and therefore he is honoured at the start of rituals and ceremonies. Ganesha Chaturthi, the great Ganesha festival is observed during the Hindu month of Bhadra.
The festival begins with the selection and installation of a clay statue called a murti. Families decorate a corner of their home with flowers before installing the murti. In India public preparations begin weeks in advance when temporary structures are created to house the murti. When the murti is installed, it and its shrine are decorated.
This is followed by a consecration ceremony in which a priest performs a Prana Pratishtha to invite Ganesha to take up residence in the murti. The festival culminates on the day of Ananta Chaturdashi, when the murtis are immersed in a convenient body of water. In the UK this ceremony occurs at Putney Pier, the Mersey at Liverpool and Southend-on-Sea.