Ganesh Festival in Free India.
From 1893 till Mr. Tilak breathed his last in 1920 public
festival of Ganpati was mainly in the nature of platform for national
awakening and social education. With these prime motives Lectures of eminent
personalities and performances of 'Mela' (a group of singers comprising
men & women) were the programmes, which used to be organised in Ganesh
Festival. However, after the demise of Lokmanya Tilak this nature gradually
underwent a change. Progammes for speeches to educate the masses on national
problems and songs to inspire nationalism and self respect have given
way to farcical skits, dramas and other forms of entertainment such as
musical concerts, mimicry, etc. Independence ushered in still more changes.
Exposure to the scientific progress, changes in the life style of Indian
people and more so of those in Maharashtra, changes in values etc. resulted
in the metamorphosing the psyche of the masses. Consequently it brought
about visible changes in the concept of public festival of Ganpati. This
occasion became more of an event of celebration resulting into lavish
decoration, impressive processions, and creation of huge Ganesh Idols.
The current emphasis is on splendour financed by coercive contributions
collected from gullible public and loud music adding environmental pollution
seem to be the order of the day. The ever increasing size and height of
the Ganesh idols creates problems at immersion time. Vulgar dancing by
inebriated young man during the processions spoils the sanctity of the
festival. As a result a school of thought emerged which felt that as independence
was achieved; public celebration of Ganpati Festival can be dispensed
with. On an introspection of the way the festival has been celebrated
since independence and particularly in the last decade or so one becomes
inclined to share the view about the necessity of continuing the festival.
It is always easy to criticise. However, in the
eagerness to criticise one must not lose the sight of the constructive
work done by various organisers of the Ganesh Festival. One would
be doing injustice to them. One cannot overlook the fact that many
celebrities from the cultural fields such as Theatre, Film and Music
had their initiations in the programmes presented in the Ganpati
Festivals. Increasing number of Ganpati Festivals also brought with
it economic activity for Artists, Pandal Contractors, Decorators
It can not be denied that a situation has to be
created whereby the Ganpati festival which played a pivotal role
in winning the freedom for the country can also help in making it
a welfare state. However, this is possible only if the educated
and enlightened class once again start actively participating in
the conduct of Ganpati Festival and restructures its activities.
This is the need of the hour.
Maybe we need another Tilak-a true visionary-to refocus on what
such festivals can and ought to do.