Ganesha Chaturthi, the great Ganesha festival, also known as ‘Vinayak is celebrated by Hindus around the world as the birthday of Lord Ganesha. It is observed during the Hindu month of Bhadra (mid-August to mid-September) and the grandest and most elaborate of them, especially in the western India state of Maharashtra, lasts for 10 days, ending on the day of ‘Ananta Chaturdashi’.
Why We Celebrate Ganesh Festival?
It is not known when and how Ganesh Chaturthi was first celebrated. Ganesh festival was being celebrated as a public event in Pune since the times of Shivaji (1630–1680), the founder of the Maratha Empire. The Peshwas, the de facto hereditary administrators of the Empire from 1749 till its end in 1818, encouraged the celebrations in their administrative seat Pune as Ganesha was their family deity (Kuladevata).With the fall of the Peshwas, Ganesh festival lost state patronage and became a private family celebration again in Maharashtra till its revival by Indian freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak.
The public festival as celebrated in Maharashtra today, was introduced by Bhausaheb Laxman Javale in 1892 by installing first Sarvajanik (Public) Ganesh idol. This followed a meeting at his residence, which was attended by, amongst others, Balasaheb Natu, and Krishnajipant Khasgiwale. Khasgiwale on his visit to the Maratha ruled princely state of Gwalior had seen the tradition of public celebration still maintained and brought it to the attention of his friends in Pune.In 1893 Lokmanya Tilak praised the concept of Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav in his newspaper, Kesari, and the next year he installed a Ganesh idol in Kesari Wada too. Tilak’s efforts transformed the annual domestic festival into a large, well-organized public event.Tilak recognized the wide appeal of the deity Ganesha as “the god for everybody”, and popularized Ganesh Chaturthi as a national festival in order “to bridge the gap between Brahmins and ‘non-Brahmins’ and find a context in which to build a new grassroots unity between them”, and generate nationalistic fervour among people in Maharashtra against the British colonial rule.Tilak was the first to install large public images of Ganesh in pavilions, and also established the practice of submerging the idols in rivers, sea, or other pools of water on the tenth day after Ganesh Chaturthi.
Under Tilak’s encouragement, the festival facilitated community participation and involvement in the form of intellectual discourses, poetry recitals, performances of plays, musical concerts, and folk dances. It served as a meeting ground for people of all castes and communities in times when, in order to exercise control over the population, the British discouraged social and political gatherings.
Written & Edited by Ameya Kale, Leo Edunomics Team!