Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most resplendent festivals celebrated in India, mainly in Maharashtra. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, nationalist and ‘The Father of Indian Unrest’ as described by the British, was the man behind turning a private, household Ganesh Chaturthi celebration to a gala event. He did so to bridge the gap between Brahmins and non-Brahmins.
The ten-day long Hindu festival is celebrated to honour the younger son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, the elephant-headed God, Ganesha’s birthday.
While some historians are of the opinion that the earliest instances of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations can be traced back to the times when Satavahana, Rashtrakuta and Chalukya dynasties ruled, that is from 271 BC to 1190 AD.
Historical records suggest that Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations were initiated by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja, to promote culture and nationalism. It was continued during the rule of Peshwas, for whom, Lord Ganesh was a family deity.
In 1857 India’s First War of Independence, Revolt of 1857 among many other names. It was a rebellion that posed serious threat to the rule of the East India Company.
Tilak saw the need to unite Indians more and realised nothing can bond people more than a common idol, equally worshipped by all. He noticed that Lord Ganesh was considered “the God for everyman”, that Ganesh was worshipped by the members belonging to the upper castes and lower castes alike, leaders and followers alike. He popularised Ganesh Chaturthi as a national festival ‘to bridge the gap between the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins.’
In 1893, Tilak organised Ganesh Utsav as a social and religious function. It was him who put large hoarding with images of Lord Ganesh in pavilions and the man behind the tradition of immersion of huge Ganesh statues on the tenth day of the festival. The festival served as a meeting place for common people of all castes and communities at a time when public social, political gatherings were banned by the british.