Lokmanya Tilak was witness in 1892 where he saw the grand scale on which the Ganesh festival was celebrated in Gwalior and the enthusiastic participation of people therein. This alone inspired him to make the Ganesh festival a public event in Maharashtra. He saw an urgent need to reshape the Indian society based on our own heritage and philosophy. He severely criticised the blind imitation of western ways and said that it amounted to spiritual and moral bankruptcy.
Tilak wished to bring about social change for political reasons too. He was convinced that social change was the key to political awareness. The country was under a foreign rule. It was necessary to arouse the masses to oppose the tyrannical British Rule. It was necessary to stir the masses and mobilise public opinion for national ends. To achieve the desired result it was necessary to awaken the masses and what else would be fit than the already popular Ganesh festival?
Love and admiration for freedom fighters like Mr. Bal Gangadhar Tilak resulted in a prompt response when he called to observe Community festival of Lord Ganesh. Thus, the Ganesh festival at Keshav Naik Chawls began with the initiation of such festivals in Maharashtra in the year 1893 in a rather humble manner. 1893 saw the beginning of Ganesh festival as a public and popular event with Shri Bhau Rangari, Shri Khajgiwale, and Shri Ghotwadekar in Pune and residents of Keshavji Naik Chawl in Mumbai acting as pioneers. In 1894 the festival spread to other places throughout Maharashtra. Year after year, the number kept increasing. His writings in Kesari and Maharatta and his public speeches had great influence in making the festival a truly public and participative event.
Initially the Ganesh festival at KNC was rather an informal affair with a few families participating in the celebration. However, as the community festivals became more popular, more members joined in and gradually the festival took a more formal shape. Today it is one of India’s biggest festival’s and whole of Maharashtra, including Pune, comes alive with the 10 day celebrations.
Contents and images from Pune Festival