Anant Chaturdashi, also called Ganesh Visarjan is a festival that occurs 10 days after Ganesh Chaturthi, on the fourteenth day of the lunar fortnight. It is a day for special prayers and ceremony not only for Hindu's but for Jains as well.
Anant Chaturdashi falls 10 days after Ganesh Chaturthi for a reason. On Ganesh Chaturthi , those who believe in it or follow it, invite the god Ganesh into their home for a visit. He is symbolised by a statue and devotees offer prayers during this period. After 10 days, his visit comes to end and prayers are done to thank him for his auspicious visit and all the blessings he bought with him. After that to signify the god Ganesh's departure, you must escort his statue out, amid ceremony and immerse the statue in a body of water with prayers.
Importance and Significance
This day is important as it signifies the last day devoted to God Ganesh's prayers.
It is also a day to worship the God Anant. Those who believe take part in special prayers and then tie a holy thread on their wrist, taking an oath to the God Anant. In return, the god blesses them with prosperity and fortune.
It is hard to trace when the celebration of Ganesha Chaturthi and Ganesh Visarjan first began but it became a large scale and public ritual in the Maratha Empire in the era of the legendary Shivaji . The big celebrations reduced during the British rule, but later during the raj enthusiam rekindled during the freedom movement for it allowed Hindu's to meet publically when gatherings were otherwise banned.
The story behind Ganesha Chaturthi and Ganesh Visarjan is that for 10 days Ganesha comes to this world amongst humans. After we host him, he returns to his abode leaving blessings behind.
There is also a story behind the prayers to God Anant. Once there was a girl named Sushila. Her father was a Brahmin named Sumant who remarried Karkash after Sushila's mother passed away. Karkash was not as nice Sushila and so when Sushila got married she decided to move away with her husband. Her husband was called Kaundinya and on their journey from her home they came upon a river. Kaundinya went for a bath and while he was bathing Sushila saw some women praying . She joined them and asked them about their worship. They explained that they were worshipping a god called "Anant", and when Sushila questioned them some more, they explained the significance on Anant’s vow. As she was starting a fresh life with her husband Sushila thought it best to pray with them and take the vow as Anant’s blessings would surely help her husband and her in their new life. The women taught her the rituals and she took the vow, tying the ceremonial thread on her left hand (As is traditional for women. Men tie it on their right.)
It seemed that Anant had truly blessed them for Sushila and Kaundinya prospered in life. One day Kaundinya questioned her on the thread she wore and she told him of her vow and Anant’s blessing. He was not happy to hear she believed that and argued that all they had gained was due to his own hard work and intelligence. They both argued on this and took the Anant string from her hand and threw it in a fire.
After that several misfortunes fell upon them and they were reduced to poverty. Finally Kaundinya understood that their fortune was due to Anant and he underwent severe penance to find Anant and ask for forgiveness. When Anant revealed himself he realised Kaundinya realised Anant was just another name for the God Vishnu, the Eternal one.