“All social classes, unite.”
Ganesh Chaturthi, the ten-day Hindu Puja-festival, begins today and ends on 05 September. It marks the birth of Ganesh, the god of wisdom, learning, prosperity and ‘beginings.’ Ganesh was born on the fourth day (chaturthi) of the Hindu lunar month of Magh which usually falls in August-September in the Gregorian calendar. This year the birthday fell on 25 August.
Ganesh idol is installed (sthapna) today and at the end of the Pooja, 05 September, immersed (visharjan) in a water body – lake, sea, river.
Ganesh and Ganesh Chaturthi are not mentioned in the Vedas. But Rig Veda mentions Ganapati (“guardian of the multitudes”), who many interpret as equivalent to Ganesha or Vinayaka.
Ganesh Chaturthi perhaps originated in South India. Historical references suggest that similar festivals were held during the Peshwa reign (1674-1818); and Ganesh was their family deity (Kuldevata). But it became a major social and public event after Shivaji sponsored it to promote culture and nationalism after Muslim-Hindu (Mughal-Maratha) wars. After the start of the British Raj, the festival lost state patronage and became a private family celebration.
After1870, British passed a series of ordinances barring assembly of more than 20 people for social or political purposes, but exempted Friday mosque prayer assembly from the bar. This blocked assembly of Hindus who did not have such daily or weekly prayers and was unfair to them.
“Lokmanya” (he who is regarded by the people) Tilak, the great freedom fighter, then brought back Ganesh Chaturthi from a private family celebration to a grand public event. Tilak realized that Ganesh appealed as “the god for everybody” and would help unite all social classes. His vision was “to bridge the gap between Brahmins and non-Brahmins and find an appropriate context in which to build a new grassroots unity between them.”
Ganesh Chaturthi celebration are at a grand scale in Maharashtra and Goa; but it is celebrated in all parts of India and by Hindus abroad.
Let’s celebrate the Chaturthi to unite all social classes, as envisioned by Lokmanya Tilak.