English meaning of the festival
The word Ganesha is a combination of two words – Gana (the entire cosmic creation) and Isha (controller and presider). The name has become synonymous with words like Sidhi (perfection), Buddhi (intelligence or wisdom), and Vignahara (dispeller of obstacles). Chaturti means fourth (4th) and it refers to the fourth day in the month of Bhadrapada (Shukla Paksha – waxing moon phase).
How the date is decided annually
Ganesh Chaturti is observed annually in the month of Bhadrapada (August/September) on the 4th day during Shukla Paksha (bright moon phase). Ganesh Chathurthi is observed to mark the appearance day of Lord Ganesh on the 4th Thithi (day), of the Shuklapaksh (Bright Fortnight) of the month of Bhadrapada (Normally Aug/Sept of each year).
Significance of the festival to Hinduism
The worship of Ganesha brings prosperity to the worshipper. The worship of Ganesh is included in Deity worship and Yagya first. Lord Narayan enjoins in the Brahma Vaivarta Puran: “The worship of Ganesh removes all the obstructions of the universe”.
How to observe/practice
On Ganesh Chathurthi, one should arise early and start worship at Brahma Muhurtha (the period just before sunrise). Ganesh is worshipped with the prescribed 16 types of offerings according to ones means. The pastimes of Ganesh indicate that sweet modak (laddoo) is one of his favourite eatables. After worship, these blessed eatables are distributed to devotees for their benefit. This day is marked by fasting, deity worship, with the prescribed pooja items, the narration and listening of Katha (stories), chanting of mantras, and reading of scriptures.