Ganesh Chaturthi : History, Celebration & Significance By Pratik Mungekar

Nationalist and freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak is the man who transformed the private celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi in today’s carnival.

Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the brightest festivals celebrated in India, primarily in the Maharashtra. Over the years, the festival is celebrated with the same fervor in many parts of southern India and Gujarat. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, nationalist and ‘The Father of Indian Agitation’ as described by the British, was the man behind the transformation of a private, House Ganesh Chaturthi celebrating at a gala.


The ten-day Hindu holiday is celebrated in honour of the youngest son of Lord Shiva and the goddess Parvati, the elephant-headed God, the birthday of Ganesha. While some historians are of the opinion that the earliest instances of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations can be traced back to the times when Satavahana, Rashtrakuta and Chalukya dynasties ruled, that is, from 271 BC to 1190 AD, historical records suggest that Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations were initiated by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja, to promote culture and nationalism. He was pursued under the reign of Peshwas, for whom, Lord Ganesh was a family divinity. Perhaps this is why the directors of the film Bollywood Bajirao Mastani included this title.

The year is famous for the Indian Rebellion of 1857 which is also referred to as the Sepoy Mutiny, India’s First War of Independence, Revolt of 1857 among many other names. It was a revolt that seriously threatened the reign of the East India Company. Bal Gangadhar Tilak was an eminent leader in the Great Rebellion. The leader saw the need to unite the Indians more and realized that nothing can bind people more than a common idol, worshipped equally by all.

Tilak noticed that Lord Ganesh was considered “the God for everyman”, that Ganesh was worshipped by the members belonging to the upper castes and lower castes alike, leaders and followers alike. He popularized Ganesh Chaturthi as a national festival ‘to close the gap between Brahmins and non-Brahmins.’

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By 1893 Tilak had organized Ganesh Utsav as a social and religious function. It was he who put a large hoarding with images of Lord Ganesh in pavilions and the man behind the tradition of immersion of huge Ganesh statues on the tenth day of the festival. The festival served as a meeting point for ordinary people from all castes and communities at a time when public social and political gatherings were forbidden by the British.

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