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Ganesh Puja is performed at the beginning of every auspicious occasion or undertaking. He is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, and is born from the union of Shiva and Shakti – the most powerful union of the cosmos. He is the one of the most ardently worshipped God who adopts a human body with an elephant face. Ganapati, Sumukha, Gajanana, Vinayaka, Lambkarna, Kapila are few of the other names he is known by.

Significance of Ganesh Puja:
There are so many legends around Lord Ganesha. The most fabled one is about how he got the elephant head.

Shiva was away, meditating on Mount Kailash and Parvati was left alone in Himalayas. Here she created a human form with her own skin upon her friend’s advice to have someone safeguard her. She named him Vinayaka and also breathed life into him. She instructed him to stand at the door and safeguard their home while she was inside.

When Shiva returned, Vinayaka confronted him and did not allow him to go inside. Shiva lost his cool and beheaded Vinayaka in a fit of rage. Parvati was left in despair after the incident. To console her, Shiva asked his Ganas to get the head of a first living creature with his head in north direction. The Ganas came back with the head of a baby elephant. Shiva joined the baby elephant’s head over Vinayaka's body with his divine powers and announced him the Head of the Ganas clan; hence, he came to be known as Ganesha.

Benefits of Ganesh Puja:
Worshipping Ganesha brings good fortune in one’s professional and personal life.
Ganesha is also worshipped to gain knowledge and wisdom.
Worshipping Ganesha first assures you purification of the place and also the minds of the devotees.
Ganesha is a Vighanaharta, one who evades all the troubles, obstacles and difficulties in life.
Helps control the Rajas and Tamas Gunas amongst the worshippers.

Occasions to Perform a Ganesh Puja:
Ganesh Puja is performed before beginning any special or auspicious tasks like Marriages, Griha Pravesh Puja, Vastu Shanti Puja, Namkaran Puja, Bhoomi Puja, or any Yagna or Havan.

There are also specific festivals and days celebrated in honor of Lord Ganesha, when this Puja can be performed. This includes Ganesh Chathurthi, Sankashti or Ganesh Chauth, etc. Also Tuesdays are dedicated to Lord Ganesha. Offering Puja to him or observing fast on Tuesdays are believed to reap benefits of that of a rigorous Tapasya.

Ganesh Puja Vidhi:
Anyone can perform a normal Ganesh Puja at home, which does not involve too many ritualistic steps.

Take a clean bath and wear clean clothes.
Prep the place of worship by cleaning it.
Place an idol of Lord Ganesha on a betel leaf that is placed on a wooden low-lying table. Make sure you bathe Lord Ganesha’s idol with water and Panchamrut before you place it.
Apply Kumkum Tilak on his forehead. Offer Akshta. Place Durva grass at his feet and offer Hibiscus flower to him.
Place a plate of Bhog along with Fruits and Prasad while you light a ghee Diya in front of Lord Ganesha. Ganesha is also fond of Modak which can be offered to him as Prasad.
Close your eyes and chant mantras for Ganesh Avahana to witness and accept the Puja.
Chant 108 names of Lord Ganesha to invoke him and seek his blessings
While performing the Puja on the day of Ganesh Chathurti, one should not look at moon to avoid a bad omen.

Ganesh Puja Shubh Mahurat:
Chaitra Navratri begins from 8th April and lasts till 16th April 2016. The Puja date and muhurat timings are mentioned below.

During any other Puja rituals like Vastu Havan, Griha Pravesh or Marriages; Ganesh Puja is performed as per Muhurat prescribed by a Pandit.
A regular Puja can be conducted at home at Abhijit Muhurat on Tuesdays and Ganesh Chauth.