The Ganesh Puja is a sacred tradition as part of the Diwali Puja. Diwali is a three to six day festival in the autumn. It centers on the new moon day that ends the month of Ashwin and begins the month of Kartika. This largest and most significant holiday in Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainish probably began as a harvest festival in India. It is now a bright, colorful celebration of so many lights it is called the Festival of Lights. Each day of Diwali has its own tradition and celebrations which vary according to the region in which it is celebrated.
The main day of most Diwali celebrations is the Dhanatrayodashi and honors Jayanti or Lakshmi, also called Laxmi. The Diwali Puja includes puja for Lakshmi in three incarnations and Ganesh as well as the treasurer of the Gods Luber and in some places, the nine planets. Ganesha is worshiped at the beginning of every auspicious act as Vighnaharta. Lord Ganesh is the Lord of wisdom and the remover of obstacles.
The whole of the Diwali Puja, including the Ganesh Puja is an elaborate ritual of prayer with accompanying music and worship. The preparation for the puja includes many steps. The first step is to ensure the house and the place of puja are spotlessly clean and maintained that way throughout the holiday. All areas are decorated and brightly lit to welcome the gods and goddesses.
The idols are bathed in special water and panchamitra which contains milk, curd (plain yogurt) ghee (clarified butter) sugar and honey. Additional water may have a gold ornament or a pearl. They are dried carefully. A new cloth is laid on a raised platform and sprinkled with rice. In some areas the grains are placed as nine mounds to represent the nine planets.
In the center of the cloth place a lotta (pitcher) and fill it full of water. The lotta may be decorated differently according to different regions celebrating Diwali. It may be wrapped in a red cloth and tied with a red string or thread. It may be adorned with betel or mango leaves. Images such as lotus, swastic and/or lines may be drawn with turmeric powder. The water inside may be sprinkled with rice or hold a betel nut, a flower and/or a coin. Something will be put on top of the lotta – a coconut or a small dish. The lotta becomes a Kalash or Purna Kumbh and is as powerful as a god or goddess. It is treated as a guest and offered sweets and nuts.
The idol of Lakshmi is placed to the left of the Kalash. The idol of Ganesh is placed to the right and in front of the Kalash in a southwesterly direction. Ink and books related to business or occupation may also be placed on the platform. Five diyahs (small oil lamps) are lit. The entire family will sit around the platform for the prayers and offerings.
The puja begins with the washing of hands. Then from the left hand water is taken and sprinkled on the worshipers’ bodies. They may then hold a flower in their left hand and sprinkle all the puja utensils and articles to purify them.
Then they start the Ganesh puja. Ganesh must be worshipped first in all pujas as he is the remover of obstacles. He is offered flowers and sweets. Preferred flowers are marigolds, leaves of Bel or a wood apple tree. Incense is lit in front of the idol as these are offered. Then the Ganesh mantras are recited and the Ganesh aarti is sung. These are performed for paying homage and respect to Lord Ganesh that he should be pleased to ensure hassle free passage for the accomplishment of wealth, health and prosperity. After completing the Ganesha Puja, the rest of the Diwali Puja is followed to the end.