Yesterday, Vrindavan celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi by installing temporary shrines, called pandals, throughout the town. People would visit these to pay their respects to the elephant-headed God with prostrations and donations.
Some may find it strange that Ganesh would be honored so highly in the land of Krishna, but Ganesh holds a great significance all over India as the God to worship at the beginning of any undertaking, including the worship of other Gods like Krishna! This special status held by Ganesh is the reason why, in many Indian temples, one sees a deity of Ganesh before seeing the primary temple deity.
It is said that the tradition of seeing Ganesh before seeing any other deity stems from a blessing given to him by his father, Lord Shiva, who said:
“You shall be the first one to be worshipped on all occasions and that no one will be worshiped before you, not even Me.
After you are worshiped alone, will anybody else be worshiped.”
Additionally, it was Ganesh who wrote the whole of the Mahabharata as it was narrated to him by the sage Vyasa. It is said that when Ganesh’s pen broke during the dictation, he snapped off one of his own tusks in order to continue writing the great epic. Thus, the scared teachings of Lord Krishna, such as those contained in the Bhagavad Gita, would not have been made available to the literate public were it not for the work of the elephant-headed god.
On the occasion of Lord Ganesh’s holiday, Vaisnavacharya Chandan Goswami of Radha Raman Temple advised the people of Vrindavan to take caution when venturing out into the night:
“Please don’t see the moon tonight. Today in all of the temples, deities will not come outside from their deity rooms to give darshan because of the moon.
According to the scriptures, it is prohibited to see the moon on this day. Those who do see it get in trouble by getting a bad name. Once Sri Krishna saw this moon and he was accused of stealing Syamantak Mani (a sacred jewel belonging to the sun god Surya that was said to protect its wearer from any and all natural disasters). No one believed Krishna when He proclaimed his innocence and the rumor circulated everywhere that Krishna killed Prasen in order to take the Syamantak Mani for Himself. Upon hearing this, the mothers of Dwarka warned their children to stay far away from the “thief king.” For the first time in the lila, Lord Balaram also believed in this rumor and left Sri Krishna.
Since then, acharyas have always recommended not to see the moon on this day and have kept their deities far from the moon.”