Ganesh as a deity
Brief History
  • Lokmanya Tilak
  • Articles of Kesari in     1896 & 1901
  • Shivaji Festival
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Public Celebrations of Ganesh Festival-A Brief History.  (contd...)

Tilak wished to bring about social change for political reasons too. He was convinced that social change was the key to political awareness. The country was under a foreign rule. It was necessary to arouse the masses to oppose the tyrannical British Rule. It was necessary to stir the masses and mobilise public opinion for national ends. He wanted his ideas to reach the common people, make them aware of British Govt.'s oppressive policies, inculcate a strong sense of nationalism and the need to attain Swaraj that is freedom from the foreign rule.

To achieve the desired result it was necessary to awaken the masses and what else would be fit than the already popular Ganesh festival? It is in these circumstances that in 1893 he appealed to the people to make it a festival of masses.

Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated with great enthusiasm in Maharashtra. People invoke the blessings of Lord Ganesh for prosperity and wisdom and pray for his help in removing all obstacles. Tilak's appeal had a miraculous effect and people responded positively. 1893 saw the beginning of Ganesh festival as a public and popular event with Shri Bhau Rangari, Shri Khajgiwale, and Shri Ghotwadekar in Pune and residents of Keshavji Naik Chawl in Mumbai acting as pioneers.

In 1894 the festival spread to other places throughout Maharashtra. Year after year, the number kept increasing. His writings in Kesari and Maharatta and his public speeches had great influence in making the festival a truly public and participative event.

Festivals unite people. Ganesh festival provided him a necessary platform to arouse them to oppose the reign of terror. His ideas propagated through speeches and writing commanded wide attention forcing the British Govt. to sit up and take notice.

During this period, even 'Kirtans', a form of folk art, a kind of one man chat and musical show, promoting ideas contained in Indian mythology underwent great transformation. In what is now called Rashtriya Kirtan saw the initiation of movement to boycott of foreign made goods, promote the use of swadeshi (indigenous) goods to encourage education based on oriental values and for shunning of alcoholic drinks.

Anti-British campaign through these activities naturally made the authorities apprehensive and there was an attempt to curb them. However, in keeping with their policy of non-interference in religious matters the Govt. did not ban such programmes and festivities. In the event, it was Tilak who succeeded in his mission of creating mass public awareness and imparting education on Indian values through public festivals like the Ganesh festival and Shivaji festival.

No one can deny the role played by Ganesh festival in mobolising support for the freedom struggle in Maharashtra and elsewhere. It is indeed sad that when India became a free country on 15th August 1947 that Tilak who struggled and suffered throughout his life to achieve this dream did not live to see it happen.

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