Do you know how the Vinayagar or Ganesh Chaturthi (birth of the elephant-headed God), a simple home Hindu festival, had assumed a grant public event of fanfare and bhakti? Countless people may not be aware of the origin of this grand public festival event. To know it, we have to travel back to the time of our forefathers' freedom struggle under the British Raj in the 1800s.
In the state of Maharastra, Ganesh Chaturthi is a 10 day long -drawn festival held with religious fervor. As a matter of fact it is one of the most visible and colorful festivals celebrated across India, Besides Maharastra and Gujarat, over a period of time, Ganesh Chathurthi has become a popular public festival in many parts of south India.
The person who turned Ganesh Chaturthi celebration into a grand national public event was none other than Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a great freedom fighter, nationalist and teacher who once said "Swarajya is my birthright and I shall have it!". He noticed that Lord Ganesh was considered "the God for every man". He was the founder and consequently became the President of the Indian Home Rule League that was founded in 1914.
|BMetal ganesh idol lotussculpture.com|
|Bal Gangadhar Tilak akashvanisamvaad.blogspot.com|
Above image: Bal Gangadhar Tilak (also known as Lokmanya Tilak) 23 July 1856 – 1 August 1920), born as Keshav Gangadhar Tilak, was an Indian nationalist, teacher, and an independence activist. He was the first leader of the Indian Independence Movement. The British colonial authorities called him "The father of the Indian unrest." He was also conferred with the title of "Lokmanya", which means "accepted by the people (as their leader)". Tilak was one of the first and strongest advocates of Swaraj ("self-rule") and a strong radical in Indian consciousness. He is known for his quote in Marathi: "Swarajya is my birthright and I shall have it!". He formed a close alliance with many Indian National Congress leaders including Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai, Aurobindo Ghose, V. O. Chidambaram Pillai and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. In 1879 he obtained his LL.B degree from Government Law College after graduation Tilak started teaching mathematics at a private school in Pune. Later, he actively participated in public affairs. Before Gandhi, he was the most popular Indian political leader. Unlike Gokhale, Tilak was a radical Nationalist but a Social conservative. He went to jail on a number of occasions that included a long stint at Mandalay. At one stage in his political life he was called "the father of Indian unrest" by British author Sir Valentine Chirol ...............
|Idol of ganesh taken to the beach for immersion, Mumbai. .indiatoday.in|
It was in 1893, Tilak organized ''Ganesh Utsav'' as a social and religious function across the nation. He was the first to have large hoardings with images of Lord Ganesh put up in pavilions in different parts of the city and introduced the tradition of immersion of huge Ganesh statues (made of clay) on the tenth day of the festival in the sea or any other water bodies. It is to be borne in mind, the festival served two important purposes. It provided an opportunity to bridge the gap between the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins and the other being it served as a meeting place for common people of all castes and communities, various leaders, etc to secretly chalk out programs to confront the British to free India. At that time the British wanted to hang on to India as much as they could and to curtail the freedom movements they, as a precaution, banned public social and political gatherings. As they never banned festival gatherings related to religion, the 10 day long Ganesh Chathurthi festival was looked upon as a great opportunity for the political leaders to wood wink the British and to interact with the common people regarding freedom struggle.
Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations have been around for centuries, Historian mention that the festival existed when Satavahana, Rashtrakuta and Chalukya dynasties ruled, that is from 271 BC to 1190 AD. Some historical records point out that Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja took keen interest in the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations with a view to promoting culture and nationalism. It was continued during the reign of Peshwas; to them Lord Ganesh was a family deity.