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Ganesh Chaturthi – how did it became a national festival?

802 509 Kristina Babic

One of the major festivals celebrated in India is Ganesh Chaturthi. It is a festival that marks the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the most worshipped deity in India. He represents and is the one who gives wisdom, knowledge, prosperity and removes obstacles. That’s why before starting any important work, most Hindus are seeking Ganesha’s blessings. But do you know what the history behind the festival?

Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Photo credit to wikipedia

It is not clear when was Ganesh Chaturthi celebrated for the first time. However, it was initiated in Maharashtra by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja, the great Maratha ruler, to promote culture and nationalism. In 1857, in Meerut, there was the attempt for gaining back independence of India from the British Empire. Though unsuccessful, it marked the beginning of a revolution and struggle for freedom.

Later on, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, one of many eminent leaders who fought for such cause, tried to unite society to fight for independence. He was the visionary, who saw the cultural importance of Lord Ganesha and how he was worshipped in all social classes. Tilak brought back the tradition of Ganesh Chaturthi and made it into a grand public event. Before him, Ganesh Chaturthi was just a family celebration. He aimed to unite Brahmins and the non-Brahmins with appropriate context such as deity who is worshipped in all social levels. He realized that only a united society could fight and gain back its freedom.

In 1893, Tilak began to organize the Ganesh Utsav as a social and religious event that lasted for ten days and involved dances, poetry, music, debates etc. For the first time, here were public images of Ganesha displayed and worshipped. And, a tradition was made. It was a festival celebrated by people of all castes and communities in a time when the British Empire forbade social and political gatherings. With the independence of India in 1947, it was proclaimed to be a national festival. Since then this festival has been celebrated all over India and worldwide as one of the biggest festivals celebrated with great joy and devotion.

Ganesha, a favourite God of most people in India, is not only a symbol of wisdom, prosperity, knowledge and remover of opticals. Ganesha also represents the power of unity and harmony among people, the strength that lies in togetherness.

Therefore, put all the differences aside and unite in love, compassion and peace. Let us celebrate every day, as a day of harmony, unity and peace.

by Shri Na Shiva

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