Today is "Ganesh Chathurthi", which is celebrated with great pomp and reverence all over India, and especially in Maharashtra. It usually comes in August / September each year.
Being a Mumbai-kar since childhood, i have always grown up around the usual festive spirit by tolerating the blaring music emanating from the crackled public speakers of the "sarvajanik (public)" mandals, enjoying the clinging sounds of the gong and the melodious aarti coming from a million like minded spirituals in unison. A typical family which celebrates the festival, brings home the Lord's idol home, for a period of 1.5 days, 5 days or 11 days. There may be other intervals apart from these too. During this entire period, right from the time the Lord is brought into the house to the time he is grandly carried back to a water body for the holy immersion, its a time of unity, togetherness and spending quality time together for millions of families across India. Friends and relatives are invited for a "darshan" of the Lord.
The Lord is respected, decorated and pampered with chantings of numerous mantras, hailing him as the one who removes all obstacles from the path of one's pursuit for success. There is a nice divine and mystic feeling amist the smell of Jasmine incense sticks lighted around the Lord, amist colorful garland and flowers, and the sounding of the "shankha" (conch). The "aarti" (devotional songs hailing the lord) can be supported by not only singing it (if one knows it) , but also by ringing gongs and by clapping hands, to a unique tune of the aarti. No matter how tired one may be, with all the preparations, suddenly some divine force on earth brings in all the energy into the "bhakt" (disciple) and he sings, claps as enthusiastically as ever one could have.
Celebration of Ganesh Chathurthi publicly was started way back in the early 20th century by Indian Freedom Fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Tilak started it to bring unity amongst people and get them together on a single platform, through celebrations of Ganesh Chathurthi. This practice still exists as there a lot common areas across Mumbai and other areas, where "mandals" (temporary bamboo sheds) are created and the Lord is worshipped in these public places. The public contributes funds to take care of the expenses of mandals in their locality.
Finally when the time of immersion comes, the Lord's idol is taken through a public procession and finally is immersed in a water body. People do feel very sad on the day of "visarjan" (immersion) that the time passed so soon. But nevertheless they do cheer up knowing that its the truth of life. The Lord takes shape through the flexible earth, shaped by the artisistic sculptor, and then he disperses back to mother earth, through water. It just indeed confirms that the cosmic power, god or the unknown force that some would like to call it, exists in each element on earth. Its upto us to find the Lord / force, respect it and worship it.