Gowri Ganesha Festival in Karnataka

Read about the Gowri Ganesha festival a major festival for the Hindus in Karnataka. The festival is in two parts. One is the Gowri pooja and the other part is the Ganesha Chathurthi celebration. It is a festival of poojas to the mother and son, as Gowri is the mother of Ganesha.

Gowri Ganesh Chathurthi Festivals

In Karnataka, Andhra, parts of Tamilnad and parts of Maharashtra the festival of Gowri pooja is observed along with the Ganesha Chathurthi festival. In fact the Gowri pooja is equally, if not more important in these places. The Gowri festival comes first and then the Ganesha festival follows. While The Gauri festival is celebrated only in few states, the Ganesh Chathurthi also known as 'Vinayaka Chathurthi' or 'Vinayaka Chavithi' is the birth anniversary (Jayanthi) of Lord Ganesh – Vinayaka – Ganapathi is celebrated throughout to the country. The words Ganesh or Ganapathi means eesa (eswar) of Gana, the lord of Gana or the captain of Lord Shiva's ganas (hosts). The Chathurthi festival falls every year on the Sukla Paksha Chathurthi day (4th day) of Badhra month of Hindu calendar (This day will fall usually between periods of Aug 15th to Sept 15th). The festival is very important to the Hindus. The Hindus are following 3 cults, the Saivaites, Vaishnavites and those who follow Goddess Durga. Ganesha is worshiped by followers of all the 3 cults. Any temple will have a shrine for Ganapathy in the temple complex. Any pooja or auspicious thing to be done is started first by a Ganesha pooja. That shows the importance attached to Vinayaka by all. In any rituals he is the first to be invoked and prayed. But the festival is not observed with same fashion all over India. Some places observe the festival as a strictly religious and simple ceremony. In some places it is observed as a big social occasion like the Karnataka and Maharashtra where there will be about 9 days celebration with music, discourse, Poojas and lectures etc. The festival is celebrated from Chathurthi to Anantha Chathurdasi.

Gowri Habba - Festival

Gowri Pooja Mora Bagina

As mentioned earlier, Gowri festival is very important to Karnataka and some other places. The habba (festival) usually falls one day before the Ganesh Chathurthi day that is on the Sukla Paksha Thadhike day (3rd day) of Badhra month of Hindu calendar. Goddess Gowri is consort Lord Shiva and mother of Ganesha and Subramanya (Karthikeya). She is worshiped with reverence throughout the country as the mother supreme. She is considered as the Goddess of power, courage and valor and is considered as the incarnation of Adi Parasakthi. It is a legend that on the Thadhike day (3rd day) of Bhadrapada month of Hindu Calendar Gowri is welcomed at her parents' house and the next day her son Ganesh comes to take her back to their abode of Kailasa. On the occasion of her coming to the thavaru mane (parents / brothers' house) ladies in the house perform Swarna Gowri Vratha (religious observance) with prayers and poojas to please the goddess. Those who perform Gowri and Ganesha festivals bring the idols of both on the Gowri Habba day. In the earlier days Gowri pooja was done to a symbolic idol of Jalagowri or arsinadagoari made of arishina pudi (haldi – turmeric powder and water) at home. On this day all the Hindu girls and women take bath early in the morning and will wear traditional new dresses. Now the idols of Gowri are available with the Ganesha idols made of clay or plaster and beautifully painted. The married women do this pooja to get the blessings of the goddess for deergha sumangali status (long and happy married life). The idol bought or made of arsinapudi is kept in a thaambaal (copper, bronze, silver or gold plate as per one's financial strength) with the local staple grain like rice or wheat in it and the idol kept on the grains. The poojas are performed with madi (cleanliness, suchi – shradhe – dedication – utmost devotion). There will be a mandapa of a teapoy, stool or a small table or in some places made especially for such purposes which will be covered with new silk cloths and decorated with bale kamba ( small plantain plants tied to the mandapa at the sides and thoranas (flower garlands), mavin soppu (mango tree leaves bunches) and other decorative items. Additional decorations of new silk sari will be made for Gowri. Ladies doing the Vratha will get 'Gauri dara' – a sacred thread with 16 knots and will tie the same to their wrists. The ladies have to prepare mora (winnow - an item made of bamboo with three sides having wall like projection from back to the front on tapering to the level of base at the front side) baginas. Minimum numbers of baginas are 5 and can be more but in odd numbers, smeared with wet turmeric to make it appear yellow and auspicious. This process also makes it last longer as turmeric has the germicidal and insecticidal qualities. Each of the baginas will have many items used by ladies with a minimum items like arsina (turmeric), Kumkum (vermilion normally applied in the center of forehead of Hindu ladies), black bangles and black beads (used in Mangal sutras), a comb, small mirror, coconut, blouse piece, some cereals and pulses like dhaniya, dals, rice, wheat, rave and cube shaped jaggery pieces. One of the baginas is for the goddess and that will be set aside to be given in some temple of Gowri/ Durga. The remaining baginas are given to married ladies (Sumangalis). It will be given as soon as possible, but will be completed within a month's time. Another festival connected with Gowri by the newly married girls for the first 5 years is performed almost one month before, in Karnataka known as the Gauri Habbada Mangaladravya. A brief detail is given below. The common belief is that the observation of this Vratha will beget good husbands to the unmarried and to the married ones the benefit is peaceful and happy married life.

Gauri Habbada Mangaladravya – Mangala Gowri Vratha

Mangala Gowri

The newly married ladies are to go to thavaru mane (parents' house) for the first 5 years after the marriage. When they return o their house they will be given 'mangala dravya' (auspicious items) from the parents' house. It used to be silk saris or ornaments etc but now it is substituted in most cases by cash mangaladrvya. For the Devi (goddess) special eatables like holige / obattu, payasa (gheer), huggi/chitranna, bajji and kosambari etc re offered. The same is then given to the family members, relatives and friends during the customary get together as prasada (items after notionally offering ritually to the deity with pooja and removed). This festival is celebrated on the Tuesdays of the Shravana masa (July – August) and as the name suggests is dedicated to the goddess Gowri. This year's celebrations of this festival are over. In the final year that is on the 5th year the girl has to give her mother a vessel with mangaladravyas (auspicious items) This festival is also known as the Shravana Mangala Gowri pooja as the Gowri pooja is done in Shravana masa (month). The Vratha starts with cleaning of the devara mane (separate place were the photos/idols of gods are usually kept in the house) or a designated place and putting rangoli / patterns with rice flour mixed with water. Keep a mane (a wooden platform made for sitting and pooja purposes) over the rangoli and a blouse spread over the mane. Keep a measure, about a glass, of rice spread over the blouse piece. Some houses who can afford will keep a Mangal Gowri made of silver; others will keep one made of turmeric. A mirror will be placed behind the Gauri with two blouse pieces folded in triangle shape kept on either side of the mirror. Keep a tray with 16 billeda eley (betel eaves), 32 betel nuts and a whole coconut near the Gowri. Fruits and coconut and akki thambittu (rice four mixed with less water and made cube like pieces) are kept for naivedia for the notional food offering to Gauri. Another 16 rice thambittu, with top side depressed too hold oil and wick to light the wicks, are kept aside foe performing arathi. Now he pooja is done by offering gejje vastra (a chain like thing made of pure cotton with a narrow stretch and a puffed ball in alternating and the narrow stretch smeared with kumkum to make the portion red), sandal paste, manthrakshthe (rice and a bit of ghee and turmeric or kumkum mixed well to make the rice yellow or red), flowers, incense stick and oil/ghee lighted lamps. The 16 thambittus kept aside are to be lit. Over the lighted wick of the arathi an iron spatula is kept with betel juice to get black soot. The soot is mixed with ghee to make kajal to apply to the eyes as eye liners (now the eyeliners re bought ready made from shops). A mangala Gowri haadu will be sung (varava kodu thayi …. To the effect that O! Mother please give a boon) while doing the pooja. Invite the women and offer the mangala dravya and rice thambittu and do namaskara (prostration) to the goddesses and gods and the elderly ladies. This is done for deergha sumangali life (long married family life with husband).

Legend about the origin of the Vratha

There was a rich childless merchant in a certain place long ago. He prayed to Lord Shiva everyday of a child. One day the Lord came to the merchant's house in the guise of a Sanyasi (monk) for alms. When the merchant's wife gave alms, the Sanyasi went out without taking the alms telling hat he will not take anything from childless family. The couple asked the monk as to what is to be done to beget a child. The monk advised them to do Mangala Gauri Pooja. The couple did the pooja with all devotion and eventually the goddess appeared and asked them whether they want a intelligent son with 16 years of life or a dull son with 100 years. It was a difficult choice but they asked for the intelligent one. They got an intelligent son and they brought up him till he was nearing 16 years of age and send the boy with his maternal uncle to Kasi. On the way to Kasi the boy got married to a girl called Susheela. On the wedding night the Goddess Gowri appeared in the dream of the girl and told her that a cobra will come and bite her husband and kill him. In order to avoid the bite of the snake, the girl should offer milk to feed the cobra and keep an empty mud pot next to the milk. After the milk the snake will enter the pot when the girl (Susheela) is to close the mouth of the pot with a blouse piece and offer this pot with the snake to her mother. The girl did as was told to her in the dream. She gave the pot with the snake to her mother. When her mother opened the pot, instead of the snake there was a beautiful necklace in the pot. She took the necklace and put it on her daughter's neck. Next day morning the girl's husband continues his journey to Kasi. After offering poojas to the lord at Kashi and getting the blessings of the gurus, the girl's husband returned to his place. The girl's husband knew that his wife is in the habit of giving food to all who passed by her house. When he reached her house he also joined the people gathered there to take the food. While Susheela was serving food, she recognize her husband and thereafter they live happily and bring his parents to live them. From that time people started doing the Vratha and it came to the present form now.

Celebration of the great Ganesha festival

Preparations before the festival

Ganesh Idols

About 6 months prior to the Gowri Ganesh festival, the clay workers start making Gowri and Ganesha idols in clay mud. Gowri idol will mostly be similar without many variations except in size. The Ganesh idols will be different in size, shape and themes. The size will start from about 3 inches to about 20 feet in height and breadth. The color scheme will vary with the theme. The variations in themes will be as wide as the imagination of the artist. It will include all the various manifestations of the Lord Ganesh as per the spiritual scriptures to the day to day themes, the social themes, the political themes and the technological themes. Sky is the limit as to the variations in the themes. In most of the themes other than t. he pure religious ones, along with Sri Ganesh there will be other relevant idols or objects as per the requirements of the themes.

Those who celebrate in a normal way will go to the market where the Ganesha idols are available on the morning of the Chathurthi day with the male members and children of the family buy the idol which will be about 6 inches to a maximum of 2 feet without many themes. Others will go to their regular places, select and book the idol to be taken on the Chathurthi day or an auspicious day they select. There will be sarvajanik (public place for common) celebrations and the organizers will be selecting the ones with more elaborate themes and with complexities. Since there will be sarvajanik celebration groups near to each other there will be competition in the selection of the idols to be brought. Once the idols are selected and bought, next the decorative items and pooja items. For the homes the decorative items will be mostly standard with 3 -4 varieties. There will be normal flower garlands of the season. There are special flower garlands of Garge hullu (a kind of grass auspicious to do pooja to Ganesha) and Bili Ekke which are offered mostly to Ganesha. There are other items like bale kamba (banana plants), mavin soppu small ornamental umbrellas and ornamental decorations to be kept behind and sides of Ganesh idols. Then there are the normal pooja items. Those who are responsible for the Sarvajanik celebration has no limit for the items to be bought except for the financial limit.

Chathurthi Festival

Ganesha Habba

This year the Ganesh Chathurthi festival is on 1st September, 2011. On this day the idols will be brought to home or the public places where the same has to be kept for poojas. While bringing the idol the relations or friends and children will accompany the same. Once it is brought, the idol will be kept on a raised place. At homes it may be a teapoy or table. In public places there may be stages made for this purpose. The place will be decorated with the new clean cloths. The idol will be kept on this. The decorative items will be fixed at the appropriate places. Poojas will be offered 3 times a day with Neivedyams (offerings) of a sweet and one Khaara. On this day the main sweet items will be modaka and kadbu along with other items. One item that is offered to Lord Ganesh is a dish supposed to be his favorite knows as modak, modgam, modakam. It is a kind of stuffed dumpling made of rice or wheat flour. The stuffing is made of a mixture of grated dry or fresh coconut, jaggery, dry fruits pieces and condiments like cardamom and other items. This mixture is semi cooked and joined together as the Pooranam (stuffing) material. Small portions of this Pooranam are placed in the flour shaped like small poories and covered like a ball. Several of these are steam cooked together in some places. In other places these ball like dumplings are deep fried in oil or ghee. Another sweet is the Kargikai (karanji) which is similar to modak except for shape. Here the shape is semicircular.

Ganesh Chathurthi is celebrated even in foreign countries where there are groups of people of Indian origin. In London the celebrations started in the year 2005 and now it is done also in Liverpool. It is being celebrated in U S A, Canada and other countries. In Mauritius it started from 1896 onwards and now the Government has considered as a public holiday there.

Visarjan (immersion in water)


After bringing home and decorating the idols poojas will be offered to the idol. Some persons will finish the poojas on the same night and will immerse the idols with the appropriate rituals in the designated tanks, wells, river spots etc. Others will keep the idols for 3, 5, 7, 9 or 11 days depending on their condition and auspicious date time. The last day to immerse is considered as the next day of Anantha Chathurdasi, 11th day from Chathurthi. Those who celebrate elaborately and at the sarvajanik places, professional priests will be engaged for the poojas. Poojas will be like for other deities like panchopachara (5 course services) Shodashopachara (16 course services) or more as per the time and capacity and patience of those doing the poojas. Then pushparchane (offering flowers while chanting the 18 names or 108 names of the lord) with food offerings and finally arathi etc will be done all the 3times. Children and others will be visiting the houses and places where Ganesh idols are kept and poojas conducted. They consider seeing the largest number of Ganesha idols as auspicious. In the public places where the celebrations are done, there will be different cultural programs in the evenings for public. In the olden days it used to be classical music concerts. But in recent times it is changed and many places are having light music and cinema songs and orchestra etc are arranged. However, in some selected old associations still arrange the classical concerts, mythological dramas, upanyasas and Katha Kalakshepa etc. Now a day's people do the sarvajanik seva after the Ganesha Chathurthi day. Some will be doing from Anantha Chathurdasi day or some will do it in the next month Chathurthi.

When the image is taken out for immersion, people will follow the idol with shouting slogans like "Ganapathi Bappa Morya, Purchya Varshi Laukariya", or singing Bhajans or with drums etc and at the place of immersion final one pooja will be done as a farewell pooja. It is supposed to be inauspicious to look at the moon on Chathurthi day as the moon was supposed to have behaved uncivilly with the lord Ganesha. It is symbolic of shunning the bad characters.

How Public celebrations started

There is no recorded evidence as to when the Vinayaka Chathurthi festival celebration as a social event was stated. According to one historian Rajawade, the celebrations started from the times of the rules of Saavahana, Rashtrakuda and Chalukya. There seems to be some evidence to show that the Maratha ruler Sivaji Maharaja was doing the celebrations to promote culture and nationalism and from then onwards the practice continued. The Peshwas continued the practice. Lord Ganesha was believed to be the family deity of the Peshwas.

It was the late Lokamanya Balagangadhara Tilak changed the form of celebrations to a large and organized festival in 1983 with public events. He popularized and brought it up to the level of a National festival. Earlier it was the upper caste Hindus who were celebrating this mainly. He made it Sarvajanik and the distinction of the castes was removed saw the seeds of the unity and Nationalistic feelings against the British rule. He persuaded communities to install large images in public places, participate, involve in intellectual speaking, music concerts, stage plays and folk dances and dramas recite poems etc during the British curtailment of social and political gatherings. He also started the practice of immersing the idols in rivers, sea or tanks etc on the 10th day.

On the Vinayaka Chathurthi day all Ganesh temples will be celebrating the festival with the devotees thronging for darshan of the temple idol and offer pooja in addition to their poojas at home.

Legends about Lord Ganesh

There is a legend as to how the lord came into being and how he got his head that of an elephant. As all know the Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathy were living in Kailasa. On one occasion Lord Shiva had to go out on long duration. During that time Goddess felt that she should have someone t help her and also to guard when she takes bath. So she created a boy. There are different versions as to how the Goddess brought Ganapathi into being.

According one version she just collected a portion of her sweat and made into the shape of a boy and breathed life into it. According to another version, she took some sandal paste and made the boy and breathed life into it. The boy was asked to guard her. One day Lord Shiva returned home and found the boy standing guard. Lord wanted to meet his wife. The boy prevented him from entering as he did not know the goddess, his mother was the consort of Lord Shiva. The lord tried to reason with Ganapathi, the boy without any success. The lord did not want to fight with the boy and send his ganas to remove Lord Ganapathy from the place. The Ganas came singly and severally but failed to win the boy in the battle. Finally Lord Himself came and just clipped the head of the boy and threw it out. In the meantime Goddess Parvathi came and saw what has happened to her son and she was terribly angry. He anger started playing havoc with every living thing and it became extremely difficult for all. They pleaded with Lord Shiva who advised his ganas to bring the head of the first living thing they meet. Accordingly they went out and came across a baby elephant and brought its head. Shiva placed the head on to the shoulder of the body of Ganapathi and the Thrimurthis gave life to it. Goddess was not happy and all the gods assured her that her son will be a very strong one and everybody will first worship him for any thing and then only other gods will be worshipped. Shiva named the boy as Ganesha and made him as the head of his Ganas to be identified as eesa of gana (Ganesha) or pathi (lord) of ganas (Ganapathi).

As per another story, Lord Shiva suggested to Parvathy that she do punyaha Vratha to appease Lord Vishnu to beget a son. She observed the Vratha and was blessed with a son. All deities rejoiced and came and blessed the child. Lord Shani did not come to see the child. Goddess Parvathy was unhappy that he did not come to see the child. Lord Shani explained to her that his seeing the child is not good for the child as it will bring misfortune to it. But Parvathy insisted Shani seeing the child. Finally under pressure Shani looked at the child and the child's head was severed immediately. Immediately Lord Vishnu saw an elephant calf near the river Pushpabhadra, cut its head and joined with the baby's body and revived it.

Negative side of the Festival and Remedies

The celebration has indirectly contributed to serious environmental pollution. Originally the idols were made in clay. As the demand increased and the price became very high, some cheaper substitutes were used to make the idols. In place of clay the plaster of Paris was introduced. This was cheaper, lighter in weight and easy to mold and quick to make. When these were being immersed in the ponds, lakes, rivers and sea etc the water get contaminated by the poison content in the plaster of Paris and the paints etc affection the lives in the water. Hence in Many parts of the country some NGOs and Governmental agencies are persuading the makers and buyers of the idols to revert back to mud so that the pollution is reduced; immerse in buckets at home and use this in gardens; use permanent idols of metal or stone and make symbolic immersion; recycle the plaster idols by repairing and repainting; ban of immersion in seas, rivers and lakes and use alternative biodegradable materials like paper mache to make the idols. Fortunately some prominent temples and spiritual organizations are also supporting these measures.


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Guest Author: Sharada27 Aug 2011

Use of idols of Lord Ganesha and Gowri made from clay without colour is given more preference to save water pollution and to save aqua animals in the water.

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