Sankashti Chaturthi (संकष्टी चतुर्थी) also known as Sankata Hara Chaturthi, Sankath Chot is a day dedicated to Lord Ganesha. This day is observed in every Lunar month of Hindu calendar month on the fourth day of Krishna Paksha (dark lunar phase or the waning phase). If this Chaturthi falls on a Tuesday it is called Angaraki Sankashti Chaturthi.
On this day, the devotees observe strict fast. They break the fast at night after having darshan/auspicious sight of the moon preceded by prayers to Lord Ganesha. 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). Each ‘Vratha’ (strict fast) has a purpose and is explained to us by a story known as the ‘Vratha Katha’. This prayer offering has 13 Vratha Kathas, one for each month and the 13th story is for ‘adhika’ (The Hindu calendar has one extra month every 4 years). List of the 13 Kathas can be seen here.
Ganesh 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. (Excerpts from Wiki and discussion with a Ganesha follower)
Ganesh is one of the very famous gods in India. Ganesh festival is celebrated very auspiciously and joyfully every year in the month of August. This celebration of Ganesh festival by placing idols of Ganesh in every street was encouraged by Lokmanya Tilak for social collaboration, unity and the feeling of integrity. But long before that the scholars in India knew that there must be a mechanism devised to help people live a life of harmony.
The idea of fasting every month on a particular day, following the lunar calendar, has a physiological reasoning to it. It helps to reduce the toxic effects in the body and is the same reasoning for all the other fasting rituals. During the fasting, when they sing songs of the Lord and the stories are narrated every year, they create a spiritual and psychological impact on the person. Long back when there was no media, press or TV, stories were shared through hymns, sloks and rituals. The significance of stories and the moral pertaining to them must not be forgotten.
The faith restored in the Lord and the rituals followed religiously, builds in your discipline, confidence, strength of fulfilling and feeling of harmony.
This post is a part of series in Discovering the Cultural Significance of various rituals and festivals in India.