This Day in History (14-Sep-1893) – Celebration of ‘Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav’ (Festival of Lord Ganesha) started

Ganesh Chaturthi was being celebrated as a public event in Pune since the times of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the 17th century, 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 Chaturthi lost state patronage and became a private family celebration again till its revival by Indian freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak.

As the unquestioned leader of the Hindus, Balwantrao Gangadhar Tilak had, by the last decade of the 19th century, accurately judged the need to give a more forceful interpretation to Indian nationalism. By reviving an old institution like the Ganapati festival and transforming it into a public celebration, Tilak sought to, and succeeded, in challenging the decade plus monopoly of the moderate-liberal leaders who had set the agenda for social and political reforms in the country. He recognised the need to form a national political movement circumventing the artificial barriers created by the moderate-liberal school of political thought.

He initiated the Ganesh festival with the intention to bring like-minded people together to share ideas and exchange thoughts on freeing India from the British regime. Tilak started celebrating the Ganesh festival from his own house at Kesari Wada. Others followed and started celebrating the Ganesh festival.

On this day, the offerings to the Lord, which till then was a private affair in every home, were brought out in the open and a common platform was created. Thus, came into being, the ‘Sarvajanik Ganpati’ in the year 1893. This brought the people together and people heard ‘kirtans’ (devotional songs) which resulted in mass education and helped bridge the gap between the different classes in society. It also created awareness among the people regarding the British regime. Solutions to common sufferings were also resolved at the gatherings. Tilak’s endeavor led to the formation of numerous clubs or mandals in India. This gave a new dimension to the Ganpati festival.


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