Bhubaneswar: As the entire country is wearing a festive atmosphere, with Ganesh idols adorned in pandals and homes, the celebrations has gained immense popularity over the years. A symbol of wisdom and good luck, Lord Ganesha is the most worshiped Hindu God. Any new beginning or occasion is started with offering prayers to the elephant headed deity.
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated to mark the birth of the Lord of Wisdom. But the history of these celebrations dates back to the era of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the founder of Maratha Empire. Some historians believe that Shivaji first started the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi in great fervour since Lord Ganesha was the Kuldevata (family God) of the Peshwas. The practice continued till the fall of the Peshwas.
In due course of time, people began celebrating it individually and privately. Centuries later, the festival was reinvented as a symbol of the nationalistic movement by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, one of the leaders of the Indian freedom movement. In 1892, he decided revive the patriotic spirit of India by bringing the household Ganapati out onto the streets of Pune and Bombay. In 1893, he set up the first and the oldest Mandal Keshavi Naik Chawl Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal at Girgaum.
He was the first person to install large clay idol of Lord Ganesha in public place and started the 10-day long affair. It slowly started seeing community participation and involvement. He then started the practice of submerging all such idols on the tenth day of the festival. He used the celebration as a means to bind all the fragmented Hindu community and oppose the British government ban on Hindu gatherings through its 1892 anti-public assembly legislation.
Such was the enthusiasm that people from all walks of life, irrespective of religion, started participating in it. It was embedded with cultural programmes and nationalistic speeches. Even Muslim leaders participated in these annual celebrations and delivered speeches, exhorting the countrymen to fight for freedom.
The festive fervor instilled a feeling a patriotism among the people and it slowly spread across the country.
But 1905, it had become a nationwide celebration. Now, thousands of sarvajanik pandals are made with crores of rupees, and the celebrations have become a gala annual affair.