Pancha Ganapati: the family festival of giving
Pancha Ganapati, a five day festival celebrated from December 21 through 25, is a Hindu festival in celebration of Lord Ganesha, Patron of Arts and Guardian of Culture.
The winter solstice has always been a festive time of year in all countries and religions, among Hindus especially, for it is a traditional season for the worship of Lord Ganesha. In Hindu Vedic Astrology this time of year marks the end of the sun's southward movement and the beginning of its movement north, the change from dakshinayana to uttarayana. Since Hindus do not celebrate Christmas, they often find it difficult to relate in a meaningful way to those who do. Their children are often embarrassed when asked why they do not receive gifts on December 25. Adults feel the need to give gifts and mail greeting cards as well as receive them from their relatives, neighbors, friends and business associates. Pancha Ganapati is a Hindu expression of this natural season of worship, gift-giving and celebration.
December 25 and the days that precede and follow it have truly become a special time of year for people of many religions, and for the non-religious as well. In fact, this season has become so universally popular that it has virtually become a secular cultural holiday in addition to its special observance by certain religions. Recognizing this fact, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Christmas a secular, social holiday. This is because it has become a time for everyone to rejoice, give and share their abundance, each in his own way.
Pancha Ganapati is not a temple utsava; it is a contemporary home observance. Because of the importance of this festival as a new beginning and mending of all mistakes of the past, a festive shrine is created especially for the five-day event in the main living room of the home. At the center of the shrine is placed a large wooden or bronze five-faced statue of Lord Pancha Ganapati. If this is not available, any large picture of Lord Ganesha will do. The home shrine is decorated in the spirit of this festive season. Lord Ganesha is often depicted as coming from the forest; therefore, pine boughs (or banana leaves) may be used. Durva grass, sugarcane and garlands of sweet modaka balls are used to decorate the home shrine. Flashing lights, tinsel and colorful hanging ornaments may also be added.
Pancha Ganapati is dressed anew each morning, preferably by the children, in a special color for that particular day. His five shaktis are loved and adored by all members of the family. He appears in golden yellow on December 21. A regal gown of royal blue is presented to Him on December 22 and one of ruby red on the 23rd. On December 24 He appears in emerald green; and on the final day Lord Pancha Ganapati comes forth in brilliant orange to bless all who visit Him, bestowing 365 days of wealth and abundance until returning again next year in the form of Pancha Ganapati.