Origins of Ganesh Utsav

Ganesh Utsav is a ten-day festival where
large painted clay sculptures of
Ganesha are worshiped in public places.

Ganesh Utsav starts on Ganesha Chaturthi
and ends ten days later.

During the ten days,
evenings (and nights) burst with activity
in the makeshift temple as people worship
Lord Ganesha.

On the tenth day, the Ganesha idol is taken
around on a procession and immersed in a
nearby water body.

Ganesh Utsav has relatively recent origins.
This way of celebration has come in towns
of Tamil Nadu only in recent years.

So, what were the circumstances of the
origin of Ganesh Utsav ?

The year was 1893. Over a hundred years had
gone by since the British occupation in India.
Hardly eight years since
the Indian National Congress was founded.
1893 is also the year Swami Vivekananda
announced his presence.

The place - Pune. Pune then was a major town
of the Maratta region. It had lost the tag of a
capital city when the Peshwas lost their
kingdom to the British in the beginning of
that century. However, it still was a major
centre of the region.

A college lecturer was unhappy about the
British occupation. Opposed to the British
style education system, he had already
helped found a school and a college in Pune.
His name - Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

Tilak was looking for ways to mobilize
people towards the cause of Indian independence.

Ganesha Chaturthi was the most important
event in town. However it was a private family
affair. People used to do puja within the house.

And the tradition on when to immerse the idol
varied from family to family. Some families
immersed it on the 3rd day. Some others on
the 5th. And a few of the families immersed it
on the 7th day.

Tilak hit upon the idea of a public celebration
of Ganesha Chaturthi for ten days.
He saw the celebration as a meeting point
to stimulate unity among people.

Thus in 1893, Tilak began the public celebration
of Ganesha Chaturthi. Over the years it has
spread to many places.

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