Mythology of Sankashti Chaturthi
It is believed that Lord Ganesha bestows his presence on earth for all his devotees during this day. It is the day Shiva declared his son Ganesha as superior to all the gods, barring Lord Vishnu, Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Shiva or Mahadeva and Parvati. Ganesha is widely worshipped as the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune and traditionally invoked at the beginning of any new venture or at the start of travel.
Lord Ganesha was created by Goddess Parvati, consort of Lord Shiva. Parvati created Ganesha out of sandalwood paste that she used for her bath and breathed life into the figure. She then set him to stand guard at her door while she bathed. Lord Shiva returned and, as Ganesha did not know him, he did not allow him to enter. Lord Shiva became enraged and asked his follower gods to teach the child some manners. Ganesha was very powerful, being born of Parvati, the embodiment of shakti (or power). He defeated the godly-followers (called "Gana"s) and declared nobody was allowed to enter while his mother was bathing. The sage of heavens, Narada, along with the Saptarshi (the seven wise rishis) sensed a growing turmoil and went to appease the boy with no results. Angered, the king of Gods, Indra attacked the boy with his entire heavenly army but even they did not stand a chance. By then, this issue had become a matter of pride for Parvati and Shiva. After the devas were defeated, the trinity, the controller, preserver and destroyer of the universe launched an attack against Ganesha. Seeing her son dead, Parvathi revealed her true self, as the Adi-shakti, the prime energy that fuels the universe and sustains matter. Taking on a terrible form, she vowed to destroy the universe where her son was killed and re-create a better one. The Gods prostrated before her and Shiva promised that her son will live again. The trinity hunted the world for a head and came across a mother elephant crying for her dead baby. They consoled the mother and fixed the head of the baby elephant in place of Ganesha's head. Lord Shiva also declared that from this day, the boy would be called "Ganesha" In this way, Lord Ganesha came to be depicted as the Elephant-Headed God.
Observation of Sankashti Chaturthi
Sankashti Chaturthi is observed in every Lunar month of Hindu calendar on the fourth day of Krishna Paksha. If this Chaturthi falls on a Tuesday it is called Angaraki Sankashti Chaturthi. Angaraki Sankashti Chaturthi is considered highly important among all Sankashti Chaturthi days.
Rituals of Sankashti Chaturthi
The devotees on Sankashti Chaturthi observe strict fast. They break the fast at night after having auspicious sight of the moon preceded by prayers to Lord Ganesha. Devotees believe their wishes would be fulfilled if they pray on this day. Observing this fast is believed to reduce your problems as Lord Ganesha symbolizes the removal of all obstacles and supreme lord of intelligence. Before moonlight the Ganapati Atharvasheersha is recited to invoke the blessings of Lord Ganesha. During each month, Lord Ganesha is worshiped with a different name and peeta (seat). On the Sakashta Chaturthi day of each month, the "Sankashta Ganapathi Puja" prayer is performed. Each 'Vratha' (strict fast) has a purpose and is explained to us by a story known as the 'Vratha Katha'.
Prayer of Sankashti Chaturthi
This prayer of Sankashti Chaturthi offering has 13 Vratha Kathas, one for each month and the 13th story is for "adhika". The uniqueness of this Vratha is that the story pertaining to that month alone has to be recited.
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