Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated on the day on which Lord Ganesha is believed to bestow his presence on earth for all his devotees. Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati, is worshipped as the supreme god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. Though it is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the symbolism behind the festival is much deeper.
Ganesh is described as Ajam Nirvikalpam Niraakaaramekam. This means that Ganesh is never born. He is Ajam (unborn), he is Niraakaar (formless) and he is Nirvikalpa (attributeless). Ganesh symbolises the consciousness which is omnipresent. Ganesh is the same energy which is the reason for this universe, from which everything is manifested and it’s the same energy in which the whole world will be dissolved. Ganesh is not somewhere outside of us, but the very centre of our life. But this is very subtle knowledge. Not everybody can perceive the formless without the form. Our ancient Rishis and Munis knew this; so they created the form for the benefit and understanding of people at all levels. Those who can’t experience of the formless, over a period of sustained experience of manifested form reach the formless Brahman.
Thus, the form serves as the starting point and gradually the formless consciousness begins to manifest. Ganesh Chaturthi marks a unique art of reaching formless Paramatma called Lord Ganesh by repeated worship of the manifest form of Ganesha. We pray to Ganesh in our consciousness to come out and sit in the idol for us for a while so that we can play with him. And after the puja, we again pray asking him to go back to where he comes from; that’s our consciousness. While he is in the idol, we offer back whatever God has given us through the puja of the idol.
The ritual of immersing (visaran) the idols after few days of worship reinforces the understanding that God is not in the idol, it’s inside us. So experiencing the omnipresent in the form and deriving joy out of the form is the essence of the Ganesha Chaturthi festival. Therefore, install the idol, worship it with infinite love, meditate and experience Lord Ganesha from within. This is the symbolic essence of Ganesh Chaturti festival, to awaken the Ganesha tatva which is masked inside us.