Ganesh Chaturthi comes in the Indian calendar month Bhadrapatha, on the fourth day of Sukla paksha. Ganesh is Lord of Invocation according to Rigveda. Lord Ganesha is mentioned twice in Rigveda. It is unknown to historians form when this festival has been celebrated in the subcontinent. The earliest mentions of Lord Ganesha are in Rigveda and in epics like Ramayana and Maha Bharath etc.
How did it change as a patriotic meeting place:
During the war against Mughals, Chatrapathi Sivaji, sponsored public puja of Lord Ganesh. Though Shivaji sponsored the public pujas during Ganesh Chaturthi, it became famous during India’s freedom struggle against the British. The public pooja was again initiated by one of the earliest freedom fighters in the 20th Century, Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
Who is Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak?
Bal Gangadhar Tilak is one of the famous freedom fighters. He opposed the division of Bengal and along with Lala Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal. He joined Congress in 1890 and supported extreme ideas of agitating against the British. There was another group of moderates. He was extremist in his thoughts and one of the reasons for the success of the Vandemataram movement against the Bengal division.
Why did he initiate the Ganesh Pandal or Ganesh sarvajanik Utsav:
In the British time, there was no liberty to talk and gather on political ideologies. There used to be close observations from the British. Some scholars mentioned that due to seditious assemblies, there were series of ordinances, which did not allow more than 20 people to gather at one place in the British Empire and there was an exception for religious congregations.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak thought of making a platform to talk about the political ideologies and to involve the public in the freedom movement. He made the plan of Ganesh Pandals. It was initiated as Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav by Tilak in the year 1894. He was the first person to install big idols in the public places and pavilions of Bombay.
The celebrations included several days of processions of music and food. They were organized by students who were with progressive thoughts.
According to some historians, it was a connecting bridge. Tilak recognized Lord Ganesha as “the god for everybody”. According to Robert Brown, Tilak chose Lord Ganesha as the bridging gap between Brahmins and non – Brahmins to build the grass-root unity across them to oppose the British colonial rule. He had the idea to bring unity between all the classes of Hindus. His idea was to bring unity and fight against British rule.
Slowly the Hindu festivals became the juncture of political talks and meeting places of freedom fighters. Ganesh Pandals expanded to every nook and corner of the country and people started participating in those congregations.
Even a few religious congregations were restricted and the police force was imposed on them due to the same reason of connecting different people on a common goal of making everyone involved in the freedom struggle. The idea of religious celebrations and congregations as a place for the rising spirit of freedom struggle was because of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak. For example, there was a religious congregation in 1929 at a small place called Vadapalli in Godavari District of Andhra place Madras presidency. There, the then DSP Musthafa Ali and his assistant Dappula Subbaraidu opened fire when there were slogans of Vandemataram and hoisting of Charaka flag on a rath of Lord Venkateswara. Many people were badly injured, some of them became permanently handicapped and some of them were dead. This incident made the people participating in the freedom struggle. This kind of incident happened in many places in India. The idea of this purpose was only because of Lokamanya.