The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is also known as the festival of the reunion of the families in India, since on the pretext of this festival all the relatives wherever they may be come together under the one roof for few days and celebrate this festival. It is not knows though as when this festival was first celebrated but from the time of Shivaji (1630-1680) it was being celebrated as public event in Pune Maharashtra. In 1893 Lokmanya Tilak transformed annual domestic festival into large well organised public event, the purpose of this was to bridge the gap between Bramhins and non-bramhins and find a context in which to build a new grassroots unity between them”, and generate nationalistic fervour among people in Maharashtra against the British colonial rule.
In Goa festival of Ganesha is celebrated with lots of enthusiasm and devotion, and it famously known as CHAVATH (fourth day of the waxing moon period) starting on the shukla chaturthi. The date usually falls between mid of August and the beginning of the September month. The festival lasts for 10 days, ending on Anant Chaturdashi (fourteenth day of the waxing moon period). The Lord Ganesha, known best as the omen of good fortune, the off spring of God Shiva and Goddess Parvati, is revered in a variety of manners from Pernem to Canacona. Steeped in tradition and rich with fervour, in most places, the particular type of worship has been passed down for generations, peppered often by the period when the state was ruled by the Portuguese. Take for example the worship followed in some places of Ponda for instance. Instead of a clay idol, devotees worship a picture of Ganapati drawn on plain paper. This practice evolved during the Portuguese regime when Goan Hindus were restricted from worshipping any idol. Instead, the devout would close their doors and windows and worship the picture in a concealed manner.
It is believed that Lord Ganesh bestows his presence on earth for all his devotees during this festival. It is the day when Ganesha was born. Ganesha is widely worshiped as the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune and traditionally invoked at the beginning of any new venture or at the start of travel.
The very special aspect of this festival is that the family members wherever they may be, proceed towards their ancestral houses in the villages. All the members of the family join in the various preparations like, cleaning the house using fresh cow dung, arranging the Makar, its decoration, collecting the natural items for the Matoli, (Matoli is the arrangement of fruits and crop hanging above the head of Ganesha Idol) as well as in the cuisine preparing auspicious sweets like Nevryo. They come and work together, worship together, eat together and enjoy decorations of the Matoli, fireworks, singing Aarti, making music on the Ghumat – shamell, Fugdi dance and so on. Incidentally, the sweet dish Nevryo is even important at Christmas for the Christian fold of the society.
The most serious impact of the festival on the environment is due to the immersion of idols made of Plaster of Paris into lakes, rivers and the sea. Traditionally, the idol was sculpted out of mud taken from nearby one’s home. After the festival, it was returned to the Earth by immersing it in a nearby water body. This cycle was meant to represent the cycle of creation and dissolution in Nature. However, as the production of Ganesh idols on a commercial basis grew, the earthen or natural clay was replaced by Plaster of Paris. Plaster is a man-made material, easier to mould, lighter and less expensive than clay. However, plaster is non-biodegradable, and insoluble in water. Moreover, the chemical paints used to adorn these plaster idols themselves contain heavy metals like mercury and cadmium, causing water pollution. Also, on immersion, non-biodegradable accessories that originally adorned the idol accumulate in the layers of sand on the beach.
In Goa, the sale of Ganesh idols made from Plaster of Paris (PoP) is banned by the State Government. People are urged to buy traditional clay idols made by artisans. Recently there have been new initiatives sponsored by some state governments to produce clay Ganesha idols. Some artisan also make use of other biodegradable materials such as papier-mâché to create Ganesh idols.
Almost every Goan village has at least one artist, who is an expert in making clay idols of Lord Ganesh. They begin their work well in advance by bringing a special kind of clay and then making it suitable to produce the idols, which are made manually using moulds and finally painting them with attractive colours. Even during earlier time’s only natural colours where used, chemical colours were avoided. For each family, the size, even colour of the body of the idol was usually determined by tradition. The idol was draped in costumes according to different mythological legends. Of late, however, one finds some variations in the traditional costumes of the Lord Ganesh reflecting the current trends. Whatever the form of the idol, a small clay mouse, the vehicle of Lord Ganesh, is always seen near the idol.
The Lord of Ecology, Lord of knowledge, Ganesha is in comes to our homes that brings the joint family system is back, although for a few day, till Lord Ganesh is with us. The past is recreated in these days. Traditional utensils, traditional clothes and traditional ways of serving and eating food on the banana leaf or the patravall….