Today is the birthday of Hindu god Ganesha, and the start of the 10-day Vinayaka Chaturthi festival in his honor! Ganesh is the patron of arts and sciences, deity of wisdom, and is worshipped as the bringer of auspicious beginnings. The conclusion of his festival offers an opportunity for a fresh start, with the luck of Ganesh on your side for all future undertakings!
In preparation for the festival, skilled artisans create giant clay models of Ganesh to be placed in homes and ultimately paraded through the streets. On his birthday, these statues are installed in home shrines and on the streets in elaborately decorated tents, for people to view and pay their homage. For ten days, there is much praying, chanting, and singing in joyful celebration of the luck-bringing lord of success.
On the 11th day, there are final offerings of coconuts, flowers, and camphor before the statues are lifted from their opulent platforms and tents and carried through the streets in a lively procession filled with singing, dancing, and much exuberant fanfare. The Ganesh sculptures are paraded to the river or the sea to be immersed in the water, symbolizing a ritual farewell to the Lord in his journey to his home in Kailash. As he goes, so does he take with him all the misfortunes of his devotees, bringing them a lucky start on whatever part of their journey is next to come!