Public Celebrations of Ganesh Festival-A Brief History.
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
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
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
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.