An external wall of a South Indian temple in Kerala, India, features Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god of prosperity and wisdom. On the first day of the festival, Ganesha idols are placed on elevated platforms in homes and elaborately decorated tents. As part of the worship, the pranapratishtha ritual invokes life in the idols, followed by the 16 ways of paying tribute, or shhodashopachara. While Vedic hymns are chanted from religious texts such as the Ganesha Upanishad, red sandalwood paste and yellow and red flowers are used to anoint the idols. Besides coconut and jaggery, Ganesha is also offered 21 modak (sweet dumplings), which are believed to be his most favorite food.
In huge processions accompanied by drumbeats, devotional singing, and dancing, the idols are taken to local rivers after the festival. Symbolizing Ganesha's journey to his parents' abode, Mount Kailas—where Shiva and Parvati resides—the ritual immerses him in water. The Great Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj used it to incite nationalist sentiment among the people of the Maratha kingdom at a time when they were fighting the Mughals, making Ganesh Chaturthi essentially a public festival. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a nationalist leader in India, revived the festival in 1893, after the British banned political assemblies. Nowadays, this festival is celebrated by Hindu communities around the globe but is especially popular in Maharashtra and other parts of western India.