According to the legend, the festival marks the auspicious day of the birth of Lord Ganesha. The story is as follows- Lord Shiva, was away from Kailash due to some work. As Parvati was alone, she felt the necessity of someone to guard the door to her house while she took bath. When she did not get any one, she created a son who could guard her. She then created Ganesha out of her sandalwood paste and breathed life into the idol. She then asked him to stand on the gate and do not let anybody enter until she came out. But Shiva returned home in the meantime. Ganesha and Shiva did not know each other. Ganesha stopped Shiva from entering Parvati’s chamber. Shiva, enraged by Ganesh’s impudence, took his trident (Trishul) and cut off Ganesha’s head.
When Pavarti knew about this, she became rage. She took on the form of the Goddess Kali and threatened destruction to the three worlds.Fearing the inevitable, the other Gods asked Shiva to pacify Parvati. Shiva sent out his ganas, to bring the head of the first living being with his head towards the north. They came across was an elephant. So they brought the head of this elephant Gajasura stating that Gajasura was the only one sleeping with his head kept in the North direaction. (Hence it is adviced not to sleep keeping the head in North direction. One more reason being that South is the position of Yama and no one would want to see Yama as soon as they get up). Shiva placed it on the trunk of Parvati’s son and breathed life into him. Parvati was overjoyed and embraced her son, the elephant-headed boy whom Shiva named Ganesha, the lord of his ganas.
It is said that anyone who looks at the moon on the night of the Vinayakar Chathurthi will be falsely accused. If someone inadvertently sees the moon on this night, he/she may remedy the situation by listening to (or reciting) the story of the syamantaka jewel found in the ‘Puranas’ or ancient Hindu scriptures.
I will post Ganesh Chaturthi recipes tomorrow.