Ganesh Utsav or Ganesh Chaturthi is a celebration of the arrival of Hindu God Ganesha to earth at everyone’s home.
It is also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi and it is widely celebrated in India and abroad through the Indian diaspora. Ganesh Utsav in USA is one of the largest festival celebrations.
It is one of the largest Hindu festivals celebrated for many days across the nation with a huge number of people gathering for some public ceremonies.
Communities across all Indian states, especially Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, and Gujarati, worship Ganesha with all their faith and energy to bring life to this colorful and beautiful religious festival.
It is said that this Ganesh festival was commemorated by the Indian king of western India, Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the founder of the Maratha Empire.
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However, over the years after the fall of Peshwas, this festival wasn’t anymore celebrated as the emergence of the British Empire was looming large over the whole of India.
Later, it was popularised by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak who recognized Ganesha as an ideal figure that could unite all the people of India for freedom struggle.
Today, the Ganesh festival has gone beyond the boundaries through Indians migrating to a foreign land.
In the United States, it has been celebrated both at home and in public places in major cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago, San Diego, etc.
There has been a huge number of Indian immigrants to the United States since Indian Independence and they have taken over this festival with them. Now, it is largely celebrated by the majority of the Indian communities as a callback to their native place or the Indian motherland.
Thus, Ganesh Utsav in the USA isn’t just a religious or worship-based festival, It has evolved into the belongingness of a huge crowd together for mutual feeling.
Let’s check out how this festival of Ganesha is celebrated throughout the United States and how everyone enjoys and gathers together as a family.
GANESH FESTIVAL IN THE UNITED STATES
For people leaving India for jobs and education, this festival of Ganesha has become an integral part of their lives. It connects them with their homeland and brings worship and the feeling of belongingness to them.
For everyone who is feeling homesick and going through a cultural shock, such festivals bring them a little closer to India and give a little relief.
Ganesh Utsav is celebrated with grandeur in several metropolitan cities of the United States of America.
All these cities have a dense population of Indian-origin people and they also have a large number of Hindu temples. These temples majorly arrange this festival by the Hindi Swamsevak Sangh.
Philadelphia Ganesh Festival is the biggest celebration in the US. It is organized by Bharatiya Temple since 2005 and it sees a large number of devotees, around 10,000 people, coming over for worshipping their beloved deity.
Before 2005, it was celebrated as a 1-day festival for 31 years and now it is a 10-day festival supported by several Indian Organizations. Other activities like dance and drama are held by people as a devotional offering.
San Francisco Bay Area, California
The Bay Area Telugu Association, Maharashtra Mandal, and Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh jointly celebrated 10-day Ganesh Utsav at the Fremont Hindu Temple. It is the major festival in the State of California.
The Ganesha idol is later immersed in the Pacific Ocean at the Golden Gate Bridge.
Sai Samstag, a Hindu society preaching the philosophy for Shirdi Sai Baba, organizes one of the biggest Ganesh Utsav in the US State of Illinois. Apart from locals, several people from other cities travel to visit this festival.
They organize Bhajans, devotional performances as a part of their cultural activity during this Hindu festival.
Ganesh Utsav is also celebrated in other US states of Florida, California, and New York but at a much smaller scale than all the above-mentioned Ganesh Festival celebrations.
Ganesh Utsav in the USA, similar to India, is celebrated in a varying duration that can stretch between 1.5 days to 10 days.
Ganesha is welcomed at home and in public spaces by all the devotees and can be celebrated with fanfare for 1.5 days, 5 days, 7 days, or 10 days.
Every puja process begins with cleaning the house and making it tidy and shining like a new home. This mostly takes place days before depending on every family.
Then the Ganesha idol is installed on a raised stage or platform and it is adorned with garlands, flowers, and kumkum plus sandalwood paste.
Twenty-one blades of Druva grass, Twenty-one modaks, and Twenty-one of the sweet of Panch Khadhya are offered to Ganesha along with some fruits placed beside him.
As the prasad, coconut is split and its pieces are distributed to all the devotees. The puja process varies greatly from home to home and It can be done with mantras in several languages as per every household.
Ganesh Chaturthi holds a very special place in every Hindu's heart. It is more of a celebration of people than a festival. There remains a lasting joy and energetic vibes throughout the ten-day-long festival.
Ganesh Utsav in the USA has carried forward this tradition beyond the homeland to foreign nations. It holds a specific significance as it celebrates the birth of Lord Ganesha who brings good fortune and harmony.
In the United States, Ganesha’s visarjan takes place at homemade pools or directly in the ocean. Like India, even America-based Indians gather together for a Visarjan procession.
On this day, people dress in traditional ethnic wear and portray their heritage with pride. Women wear Kurti suits, lehengas, or sarees, and Men generally go for Kurta sets or maybe even sherwanis or simple kurta shirts for a modern touch.
Ganesh Visarjan commences with the usual morning Aarti with the chanting of the devotional songs of Sukharta Dukharta and Jai Ganesh Deva.
Later, Bhog is given to all the attendees at Visarjan. It is then followed by the final puja and then offerings of flowers, incense, oil lamps, fragrance, and food are given.
In the end, every member apologizes to the Lord Ganesha and seeks pardon if anything wrong has been committed by any family member.
People ask for blessings from the Ganesha. Finally, the idol of Ganesh is immersed in the water and everyone prays by joining their hands.
Nowadays, as the sea levels are rising and increase in water pollution, this Ganesha immersion has been perceived as an issue and many have been opting out for eco-friendly immersions as in small pools and local community-based ponds.
Even homemade or eco-friendly Ganesha is installed for an eco-friendly immersion.
In this manner, lots of waste has been avoided and more awareness about climate crises is generated amongst the people.
Some even adopt a gold or silver idol of the Ganesha and they simply sprinkle water on the Ganesha symbolizing Visarjan and then this idol is kept in proper and secure storage for using it in the next year’s Ganesh Chaturthi.
Ganesh Utsav in the United States of America is growing and in a sustainable way. The covid-19 pandemic has brought climate consciousness to everyone’s mind and in 2021, everyone is willingly adopting eco-friendly or natural ways to install the Ganesha or even perform the Ganesh Visarjan.
Some idols even dissolved completely in water and the seeds inside them can grow into the soil and become full-fledged trees. Thus, Ganesha hasn’t just evolved from being just a worship idol into an eco-friendly symbol.
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