18th SEPTEMBER 2015 LOKMAYA BAL GANGADHAR TILAK – GANESH CHATURTHI AND SHIV JAYANTI

Bal Gangadhar Tilak

Bal Gangadhar Tilak, an Indian nationalist, social reformer as well as independence fighter was born on July 23rd 1856 in Madhali Alee (Middle Lane) in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra. He was the first admired leader of the Indian Independence Movement, and is often referred as the Father of the Indian unrest. This nationalist leader was one of the first and strongest proponents for complete independence (Swaraj). “Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it!”, is the famous quote associated with Tilak.
He graduated from Deccan College, Pune in the year 1877, and then started teaching in a private school situated in Pune, and later turned on to become a journalist. He even taught Mathematics at Fergusson College.

In the year 1880, Tilak started a Marathi daily ‘Kesari’ which meant lion. IN 1890s, he went on to join the Indian National Congress (INC) but opposed its liberal-moderate outlook towards the struggle for self-government. He initiated the celebration of festivals such as ‘Ganesh Chaturti’ as well as Shiv Jayanti’ with intention of encouraging public gathering.

Gananayak Ganapati

Shree Ganesh presents altogether a different image compared to other deities. He is called Ganapati because he is the God of group (Gana). He keeps intact identity (swatva) of all the members of the group under him, maintains their self-respect but at the same time he very skillfully sees that the members of the group love their group. Ganesh has the art of keeping them disciplined without hurting their pride. Ganapati, the leader, must be non-egoistic and must have the ability to appreciate virtues of others and help to promote them. Only in this way will he retain his hold on the group. The members of the group should be ready for self-offering (samarpan) for Ganapati. In self-offering there should be self-respect and modesty but not fear, arrogance and helplessness. The life of self-offering person is a truly developed life. In self-offering all the strength and faculties are to be utilised for the leader of the group (Gananayak). The mind and intellect of all the members of the group will be dedicated to him and they will think of him only.

God has bestowed on each creature different power in a lesser or a higher degree. That creature should use that power with discretion (vivek). When one uses this power for one’s selfish gains only, the power instead of being beneficial for the good of the people and for the welfare of the society turns out to be harmful and destructive. God is the bestower of this power. The creature has not acquired that by itself. This power should be used by it to attain prosperity and progress. Only a human being is capable of doing this. The creator of this world does not approve of using this power by the human beings for their selfish ends and thereby display its destructive nature. The power should be used for the welfare only. Just as the power should be used properly for the welfare of the society, it should also be used for the Almighty. The power employed only for selfish gains turns out to be inhuman and monstrous and the power used for God (Narayan) turns into Narayani shakti. This is what Lord Ganapati desires from the heart of hearts. Ganapati suggests this beneficial way by his own conduct.

If one observes closely the image of Shree Ganesh, we can see him in Omkar form. If we invoke this form (Omkar swaroop) before commencing any work, it succeeds without any obstacles. By worshipping this deity in Omkar swaroop, the divine power in man is awakened and this power fulfils all his worldly desires as well as desires pertaining to the other world. When this phenomenal power of Omkar pervades day to day life of any person, his mission of life may be considered as fulfilled.

This deity is also worshipped as ‘Vratpataye’. For rooting out beastly passions from human life and turning it into a pure divine life, Vow (Vrat) is most essential. Vrat purifies the human mind and intellect. Observance of Vrat is very important for shaping the character and retaining it as such in pure form. Just as Vratpati is a form of Ganapati there is an another form viz. ‘Vratyapati’. At present the uncivilised people are dominating the society. Therefore discontent, dissatisfaction and unrest are riding over human life. To do away with this state of affairs and to make human life joyful for ever and contented, we must invoke this deity.

Gananayak Ganapati   (contd…)

Restraints for Collective Existence

Nowadays the collective existence in the society is distorted and agitated. Barbarism is on the rise. Greed for material pleasures is getting an upper hand. To cleanse the society from this scourge and lead healthy collective existence invoking Lord Ganesh is necessary. The persons working in a group must have love for the group. They should feel that ‘this is my group’. Then only the affection for the group will increase. Each member should realise that the work of the group is, in fact, his own and he must feel proud to do the work assigned to him. While working in a group one should not have expectation for name and fame nor one should crave for power and for amassing wealth.

While working in a group there should be dynamism and it should be adorned with spotless character. Only a man of such character can bring about social reformation. The leader of the group must possess the three important qualities viz. Foresight, thorough knowledge of the head and heart of work (Karyadarshanpratibha) and versatility.

Pandurangshastri Athavale

Translated from the article in Marathi from
‘Shree Sarvajaneek Ganeshotsav- Shatkachi Vatchal.’

Lord Ganesh – An Objective View

In our day-today life we have seen that a very popular personality is often revered to such an extent that its personality gets surrounded by legends and sometimes even the powers of performing miracles are attributed to it. So much so that it appears like a fiction. An increasing influence of these, over the years makes the real personality rather hazy and mystic. Why, even if we go some centuries back we will find that even saints and historical figures of those times have become legends in their own time. If that is the case about mortal beings then there is no wonder about the interesting tales/ stories that surround several Gods and Goddesses of our Hindu Religion- a religion which dates back to thousands of years. Among all these, Lord Ganesh -a Protector and the one who enlightens us – is one prominent deity which is held in highest reverence by the masses.

Over the years this reverence was further strengthened by the several storytellers who narrated interesting stories about the deities in their discourses. Such tales not only entertained and amused the gathering but also helped in propagating the powers of the deities. The devotees were held in an awe while die-hard faithful continued to believe in those stories. Those whose vision had widened with exposure to science and whose minds were trying to find out the ultimate were some times found to be confused. This may perhaps have been the result of mindset of the people of those times who accepted such stories passed by generations downwards. In that age of innocence nobody thought of testing the obvious on the touchstone of logic. Whether there was any substance or not in the story of crow and sparrow it has to be admitted that it definitely added colour to the childhood. As we grow up and recall our childhood we ourselves are surprised as to how as a child we believed in that story which is totally devoid of any reasoning or logic and we start to think that even mythological stories may not also be different.

Thoughts about stories of Lord Ganesh

However, it would be a fallacy to discard such stories or mythological tales as pure fiction. For proper understanding of these stories it is necessary that we apply certain references to understand the logical meaning implied in these stories. Therefore, let us confine ourselves here about the stories of Lord Ganesh.

Lord Ganesh or Ganapati being very popular with the masses, several stories attributed to him found their place in the mythology, particularly dwelling on His Birth, His Body and His Heroic Deeds. Though the description of those things appear to be weird or incredible today, it has to be borne in mind that these came into being centuries ago. Ruskin has compared words to the coins- meaning thereby that just as coins after its constant use become so smooth or glabrous that we tend to question its validity or veracity so also the words because of its use over the years tend to undergo drastic change and the ancient meaning becomes difficult to understand. However, if we make sincere efforts by going deep into its meaning the real meaning unfolds before us. For example let us think about story of Birth of Ganapati.

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Lord Ganesh – An Objective View   (contd…)

Before going for a bath Goddess Parvati made an imaginary statue of a gatekeeper from the grime on the body. With her divine power she instilled life in it and this became Ganapati. When Lord Shiva was refused entry, in his anger not recognising Ganapatibe-headed him. Then to pacify Goddess Parvati he infused life in the torso and asked Nandi the Bull to bring head of living animal. Nandi in the process brought the head of an Elephant, which was then attached to the torso of a be-headed Ganapati, andGanapati became Gajamukh i.e. Elephant Headed. Even the child will question rationally of the happening narrated in the story. However, it all happens because of the wrong interpretation of the events and the words used in the story. The underlying fact that the events and the words in the story are all symbolic is forgotten and this results into misinterpretation. If we analyse the story it would become apparent that it is just not possible in the cold weather of Himalayas- an abode of Lord Shiva andParvati– for Parvati to gather so much grime on her body to make a statue of Ganapati. Moreover, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati are taken as ordinary mortals, which is in fact not a case. The entire story is symbolic and as stated by Tulsidas in his Tulsi Ramayan Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva represent faith and trust. Faith is always born out of innocence but the trust can be acquired only after undergoing certain harsh tests. So in case of Ganapati Faith represents his mother and Trust represents his father.

If we take a literal meaning of the word grime used in the foregoing it is bound to cause confusion. Here the word grime actually conveys the meaning of essence (like cream of milk or a sweet boiled sugarcane juice). This essence is nothing but the faith and trust which has survived the rigours or heat of the effects of life. If we proceed on postulate that Lord Ganesh is basically an embodiment of discretion and wisdom then the simile of “essence” becomes more meaningful because this essence is the result of tough tests of trials and tribulation that one undergoes in daily life.

To know how Lord Ganapati became Gajamukh (i.e. Elephant headed) we have to understand the formation of word Gaja. The word Gaja is composed of two letters of Ga and Ja. Here, Ga indicates the act of going and Ja indicates the germination or of taking Birth. In short these two words indicate the conditions of Birth and Decay of Cosmos. This facet of Lord Ganesh is not new one but appears in the verses extolling the virtues of Ganapati known as Atharvashirsha. Ganapati symbolises the single letter word which in turn symbolises the beginning, middle and end of the cosmic world. The facet of Lord Ganesh called Omkar Swarup is well known.

Practical outlook & logical thinking

While looking at the different stories about Lord Ganesh the different facets of Ganapati’s personality has to be borne in mind. Ganapati is the leader of people hence the quality of leadership is one facet. Protector is another facet as he is worshiped before undertaking any activity. Lord Ganeshoccupies a prominent place in the spiritual study as well as science of Yoga. A beautiful use of symbols and metaphors to explain these has been prevalent since ancient times. This is very well illustrated in the description of anatomy of Ganapatior even his vehicle. Let us take an example of mouse as a vehicle of Ganapati. The way Ganapati’s physique is described the idea of mouse being his vehicle looks very weird. However, we just cannot dismiss it as such because it has a logical rationale behind it. In the Ganesh Purana the Ganapatiis called Aakhu vahan. In Sanskrit , word Aakhu has two meanings. One is maya (i.e. creation of illusion or wonder working power) and the other is mouse. In this context if we consider maya as vehicle then Ganapati becomes both owner and driver of this vehicle meaning thereby that He is in absolute control of maya (i.e. power that works wonders). To acquire the ability of discretion and wisdom it is necessary that one should have a control over maya (creation of illusion). When this implied meaning becomes obvious then the doubts like possibility of mouse becoming a vehicle ofGanapati, are automatically dispelled and what remains to be seen is what is the similarity between the mouse and maya. Both the maya and the mouse represent harmful tendencies. Both win over their unsuspecting victims in stealthy manner. Those who are amenable to the temptations of this worldly life become victims of maya. By the time realisation dawns on such victims it becomes too late. Lord Ganapati however, keeps such tendencies fully under His reins. Just as rider or driver keeps the vehicle under his control.

Ganpati and Moon

Ganapati and moon is the favourite topic of the mythological stories. This relationship has to be viewed from logical angle. Astrology presupposes existence of close relationship between Moon and the Mind. It is observed that behavioural pattern of the mentally unstable people undergoes certain changes on No Moon and Full Moon Days. The word Lunatic is derived from the word Lunar i.e. Moon. Just as there are different phases of Moon each day the moods of the mind also keep on changing because of its fickle nature. Therefore, it is no wonder that story depicts the Moon (symbolising the fickle mind, emotion and passion) making mockery of Ganapati (an embodiment of discretion and wisdom) riding on ‘mouse’ (representing maya i.e. illusion, firmly under control). However, this story also tells us that the devotees of Ganapati observe the fast on the “Chaturthi” (fourth day of the month of the Hindu Calendar) and this fast is broken only after seeing the Moon. According to Hindu tradition each day has a presiding deity e.g. Pratipada (i.e. first day) is presided over by Agni i.e. Fire, second day ( i.e. dwitiya) is presided over Brahma, Third (Tritiya) by Gauri, Fourth by Ganapati and so on. However, these days (i.e. tithis) signify a state of mind. All our day-to-day actions are normally carried out in three phases of state of mind i.e. Jagruti (Total awareness) Swapna (i.e. sub-consciousness) and third is Sushupti (i.e. profound sleep). However, according to study of spiritualism, beyond these three states of mind there is also a fourth state known as Turya (i.e. Turia, simple state of consciousness) or Unmani and which is indicative of stage beyond any state of mind. As the moon is related to the moods of mind, not to look at the moon signifies going beyond above mentioned three states of mind by winning over its fickleness and becoming one with the God. As we have to carry on our day-to-day activities we cannot afford to remain in this fourth state i.e. Unmani and thus has to return to normal three states of mind i.e. Jagruti, Swapna and Sushupti explained earlier. Looking at Moon before breaking fast signifies returning back to above said three states of mind. Thus if we co-relate the symbolsGanapati, Mouse and the Moon then, the whole concept of Yoga and Spiritual Science becomes clear.

Lord Ganapati is described in many ways like Vakratund (having a crooked mouth), Lambodar (pot-bellied) Shurpa Karna (having ears like a sifting pan), Raktavarna (Red Coloured), Ekdanta (single toothed) etc. The word Vakratund when fully expanded becomes ‘Vakran Tundyati Sah’ meaning thereby that the Vakratunda is one who punishes the crooked ones, disciplines the wrongdoers. Similarly ‘Shurpakarnak’ means the one having ears as big as sifting pan. Symbolically it means that just as sifting pan is used to separate what is required and throw out unnecessary from the grain, similarly the big ears receives what is worth and keep out what is not and Ganapati being leader of the Gana (people) it becomes all the more necessary for him to hear everybody but judiciously accept what is important or proper. Being elephant headed the trunk become inevitable part of his person. The trunk of Elephant is presumed to be highly sensitive. This sensitivity helps the Elephant in identifying the dangers of other wild animals.

Raktavarni (Red Coloured) Ganapati

It is believed that Ganapati is fond of Red Colour and hence he is painted in Red-lead colour and is offered red flowers. While this red colour is symbolic, the belief has its source in certain concepts, conventions, and mythological stories etc. However, it is the peculiarity of the Indian heritage that to know the appropriate meaning behind these stories and concepts one has to properly and minutely understand the various aspects of Religion, Science of Yoga, Astrology, Jurisprudence etc. In the absence of such understanding a wrong picture gets presented. This has become evident in the conclusions drawn by the occidentals while studying Indian Culture. While their zeal to study the Indian Culture is an event to be welcomed their lack of deep understanding of Hindu ethos becomes a main reason for drawing wrong conclusions. However, though this can be overlooked as slight aberration, it becomes a matter of pity when our own intellectuals start towing their line. Interpretation of symbolic red colour ofGanapati by them can be a specimen example.

A relation between Ganapati and the red colour can best be explained by leaning on the science of Yoga. This science believes that by constant practice of Yoga, consistent meditation and spiritual practices a vital latent power located in the coccygeal vertebra can be awakened/ gets awakened. This latent power, on awakening, starts rising upward towards brain through spinal cord or vertebral column. On its journey this power has to pass through seven chakras (i.e. osseous labyrinths). These labyrinths (chakras) are the seven stages of upward journey of Aadimaya. The first labyrinth is known as Muladhar Chakra (Basic foundation) where it is believed Ganapati resides. It is well known that in Atharvashrisha (verses extollingGanapati’s virtues) also a reference to this is found.

This base (Muladhar) being close to the Kundalini (vital latent power in a body), its brilliance and red colour is reflected on the body of Ganesh and thus Ganeshacquires red colour.

Saint Dyaneshwar has illustrated this beautiful image of Ganapti in the first chapter of Dyaneshwari. Though Ganapati basically does not have any attributes or shapes; because of its proximity to this Kundalini-became Red in colour and naturally red flowers and red lead paint are his favourites. Description of Ganapati in such symbolic manner is peculiar to the Indian style of presentation over the years and this fact has to be borne in mind at all times.

From this exposition it becomes quite clear that though those stories describingGanapati, appears to be meaningless or without any substance prima-facie, it is not so. These stories are a medium through which an invaluable established truth is impressed on the minds of the people. Though gradually amusement factor of stories become prominent and basic meaning behind the stories was sidelined, if we remain conscious about certain ideas in the Indian culture it will not be difficult to find the correct interpretation of the meaning which appears to be mystic. Before concluding it has to be borne in mind that preservation of this meaning is our responsibility.

Damodarshastri Godse

Excerpts translated from the Marathi article in
“Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Shatakachi Vatchal”

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Public Celebrations of Ganesh Festival-A Brief History.

Festivals are an integral part of human cultural life. From ancient times they have been celebrated not only in India but also in different parts of the world. ‘Olympian’ celebrated by Greeks, ‘Pithian’ to promote poetry writing and ‘Nimiyan’ to exhibit skills in martial arts are, to name a few, some of the festivals celebrated outside India in ancient times. The Ganesh festival, which has its origins in Maharashtra in India, has been celebrated for over a century.

Ganesh festival prior to 1893

In the good old days Ganesh festival was a purely family affair. According to the eminent historian Shri Rajwade, records reveal that it was celebrated even during the reigns of Satwahana, Rashtrakuta and Chalukya. There are also references in historical records to similar celebrations during Peshwa times, Lord Ganapati being the family deity of the Peshwas. The celebration would commence on the first day of the month of Bhadrapada and would go on for ten days. Years later it became a practice to end the festivities on ‘Anant Chaturdashi’ with the immersion of the Ganapati idol in water. The celebrations were universally popular with rich and poor alike. The poor were given sweets and clothes. Upper caste Brahmins were fed on delicious meals. On the concluding day, the idol of Lord Ganesh was carried in a beautifully decorated palanquin in a ceremonial procession and taken to the river for immersion.

The last of the Ganesh festivals during the Peshwa regime was celebrated in the year 1815 when Bajirao II held the power. The year 1818 saw the end of Peshwa rule with Union Jack being unfurled on the great Shaniwar-Wada. Among the valuables the Britishers took away was a ‘ruby’eyed Ganesh idol made in pure gold studded with diamonds and rubies. It was reportedly valued at £ 50000 in those days. After the end of Peshwa rule, from 1818 to 1892 Ganesh Festival remained a family affair in Maharashtra. Emulating the example of Peshwas, princely states of Baroda and Gwalior too involved common people in the Ganesh festival. Lokmanya Tilak was witness in 1892 where he saw the grand scale on which the 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. However it needs to be mentioned here that social and political conditions of those times seemed ripe for making such a move.

Background for making Ganesh Festival as public event
in 1893 by Lokmanaya Tilak

Apart from social and political situation existing then, Lokmanya Tilak an erudite person he was, had come across the writings about the different festivals observed in Ancient Egypt and was also a witness to the Ganpati Festival in Gwalior State which inspired him to start a similar public celebration of Ganesh Festival. Around 1892-93 the influence of Christianity on Indian psyche had become quite obvious. Christian life-style, culture, their concepts of religion, morality and worship made deep impressions on the Indian mind. Indians were so dazzled by the progress made by westerners in science and technology that they started rubbishing our ancient learning of no consequence in the modern world. People took pride in imitating westerners. Tilak whose mind was deeply rooted in ancient Hindu culture and traditions, viewed the developing situation as alarming. 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. Mr. Tilak raised a very pertinent question that those who are blindly following the Britishers and their culture can really occupy the places of those very Britishers in the Indian administration! The 1893 Hindu-Muslim riots at Pune and Mumbai further added to his restlessness. Like a true nationalist he desired to emphasise and preserve the national sentiment by giving due credit to all that was good in the old system. He wanted to unite the Hindus but he was not against Islam. He was only opposed to those Muslims incited as they were by the British to favour and actively participate in the riots.


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Public Celebrations of Ganesh Festival-A Brief History.  (contd…)

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. He wanted his ideas to reach the common people, make them aware of British Govt.’s oppressive policies, inculcate a strong sense of nationalism and the need to attain Swaraj that is freedom from the foreign rule.

To achieve the desired result it was necessary to awaken the masses and what else would be fit than the already popular Ganesh festival? It is in these circumstances that in 1893 he appealed to the people to make it a festival of masses.

Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated with great enthusiasm in Maharashtra. People invoke the blessings of Lord Ganesh for prosperity and wisdom and pray for his help in removing all obstacles. Tilak’s appeal had a miraculous effect and people responded positively. 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.

Festivals unite people. Ganesh festival provided him a necessary platform to arouse them to oppose the reign of terror. His ideas propagated through speeches and writing commanded wide attention forcing the British Govt. to sit up and take notice.

During this period, even ‘Kirtans’, a form of folk art, a kind of one man chat and musical show, promoting ideas contained in Indian mythology underwent great transformation. In what is now called Rashtriya Kirtan saw the initiation of movement to boycott of foreign made goods, promote the use of swadeshi (indigenous) goods to encourage education based on oriental values and for shunning of alcoholic drinks.

Anti-British campaign through these activities naturally made the authorities apprehensive and there was an attempt to curb them. However, in keeping with their policy of non-interference in religious matters the Govt. did not ban such programmes and festivities. In the event, it was Tilak who succeeded in his mission of creating mass public awareness and imparting education on Indian values through public festivals like the Ganesh festival and Shivaji festival.

No one can deny the role played by Ganesh festival in mobolising support for the freedom struggle in Maharashtra and elsewhere. It is indeed sad that when India became a free country on 15th August 1947 that Tilak who struggled and suffered throughout his life to achieve this dream did not live to see it happen.

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Ganesh Festival in Free India.

From 1893 till Mr. Tilak breathed his last in 1920 public festival of Ganpati was mainly in the nature of platform for national awakening and social education. With these prime motives Lectures of eminent personalities and performances of ‘Mela’ (a group of singers comprising men & women) were the programmes, which used to be organised in Ganesh Festival. However, after the demise of Lokmanya Tilak this nature gradually underwent a change. Progammes for speeches to educate the masses on national problems and songs to inspire nationalism and self respect have given way to farcical skits, dramas and other forms of entertainment such as musical concerts, mimicry, etc. Independence ushered in still more changes. Exposure to the scientific progress, changes in the life style of Indian people and more so of those in Maharashtra, changes in values etc. resulted in the metamorphosing the psyche of the masses. Consequently it brought about visible changes in the concept of public festival of Ganpati. This occasion became more of an event of celebration resulting into lavish decoration, impressive processions, and creation of huge Ganesh Idols. The current emphasis is on splendour financed by coercive contributions collected from gullible public and loud music adding environmental pollution seem to be the order of the day. The ever increasing size and height of the Ganesh idols creates problems at immersion time. Vulgar dancing by inebriated young man during the processions spoils the sanctity of the festival. As a result a school of thought emerged which felt that as independence was achieved; public celebration of Ganpati Festival can be dispensed with. On an introspection of the way the festival has been celebrated since independence and particularly in the last decade or so one becomes inclined to share the view about the necessity of continuing the festival.

It is always easy to criticise. However, in the eagerness to criticise one must not lose the sight of the constructive work done by various organisers of the Ganesh Festival. One would be doing injustice to them. One cannot overlook the fact that many celebrities from the cultural fields such as Theatre, Film and Music had their initiations in the programmes presented in the Ganpati Festivals. Increasing number of Ganpati Festivals also brought with it economic activity for Artists, Pandal Contractors, Decorators etc.

It can not be denied that a situation has to be created whereby the Ganpati festival which played a pivotal role in winning the freedom for the country can also help in making it a welfare state. However, this is possible only if the educated and enlightened class once again start actively participating in the conduct of Ganpati Festival and restructures its activities. This is the need of the hour.

Maybe we need another Tilak-a true visionary-to refocus on what such festivals can and ought to do.

Vinay Rahatekar

Centenary Ganesh Festival

August 31, 1992 to September 10,1992 the 11 days that proved historical and memorable for the Keshavji Naik Chawls.

As regards, the entire 1992 was significant for the present and past residents of the chawls. It was essential to celebrate the centenary of the first Ganesh festival in Mumbai on a grand scale.

Our centenary celebrations did not remain restricted to the 10 days of the festival; they actually started in the previous year and went on for an entire year. The festival was formally inaugurated on Vijayadashmi (Dussera). There were Eight Programmes held during this period, which received great response from locals and well-wishers.

The programmes included a Traditional Musical Programmepresented by Ashok Hande and his group, a ‘Rangoli’ Competition and Exhibition, a Lecture Series on the English language by Prof Manohar Kochrekar, the Lokmanya Vyakhyanmala (a series of five lectures), a Drawing Competition, a Medical Camp, a Lecture on the Union Budget for the year and the grand finale in the form of the 10-day festival.

A programme that needs special mention here is the one on the English language which went on for 50 consecutive days. Prof. Kochrekar who taught English to all those who cared to attend it showed genuine concern to impart knowledge. His selflessness and down-to-earth nature should inspire all Sanshta activists.

On August 1, 1992 (on the death anniversary of Lokmanya Tilak), we added something unique to the history of the festival. We brought out a book called ‘Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Shatakachi Vatchal’ (Public Celebration of Ganesh Festival, a journey of 100 years). It takes a look at the religious, cultural, social, political and economic aspect of the Sarvajanik Ganesh Festival in the last 100 years.

These programmes were conducted successfully. But much more enthusiasm was seen during the actual festival. Everyone from small children to old people-contributed to it and the festival was a grand success.

During the 10 days of our centenary festival, thousands of people, from different castes and communities, even celebrities from different fields, queued up to have a Darshan. The beautiful idol of Shree Ganesh, the ambience of a temple and a Wada from the Peshwa era and the decoration in the mandap were really eye-catching. All the programmes during these 10 days were conducted in the most efficient and disciplined manner.

Centenary Ganesh Festival   (contd…)

11 days of the Festival.

On Monday, August 31, 1992 a huge procession for the Ganesh idol’s arrival took place. The route was changed this year so that all Girgaumwallas could have a darshan of the idol.

Among those formed the procession were women clad in traditional nine-yard sari and men in dhoti, kurta and turban. The traditional instruments like lezim, nashikbaja and tasha were increasing their enthusiasm.

When the procession reached the chawl premises, crackers were burnt and 100 married ladies did the aarti of the idol (According to Hindu religion, it is auspicious for married women to do the aarti of a deity or an individual on a festival day).

The same day, in the evening, the souvenir and the citation brought out by the Sanstha were formally inaugurated by expert astrologer Jayant Salgaonkar.

In the night, famous philosopher Vamanrao Pai gave a lecture on ‘Tuch Aahesh Tujhya Jeevanacha Shilpakar‘ (You are the sculptor of your life) which was quite enlightening.

The next day, on September 1, the late Pandit Jeetendra Abhisheki gave a classical music performance, which was well received.

A lot of children as well as adults were keen on exhibiting their artistic talents on the stage this year. So much was their enthusiasm that the Sanshta had to allot two days only for cultural programmes. Two comedy plays were performed on September 2by the residents of the chawl, namely ‘Padmashri Dhundiraj’ and ‘Natak Gela Khadyat’. Audiences quite enjoyed them.

On Thursday, September 3, a programme based on the ancient Maharashtrian music was performed by NCPA and directed by Dr. Ashok Ranade, it clicked with the audiences despite the fact that the types of music presented by singers like Faiyyaz, Kirti Shiledar, Padmaja Phenani-Joglekar, Marutibua Bagde, Sharad Jambhekar & Kedar Bodas had nothing to do with the popular rap or disco. Many of them even bought the audio cassettes of ‘Devgani’ later.

On Friday, September 4, a Marathi play ‘One Room Kitchen’ dealing with the transition of a person from a chawl to flat took place. It was liked by people.

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Centenary Ganesh Festival   (contd…)

On Saturday, September 5, L. K. Advani, the then leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha paid a visit to the festival. This was the first occasion of a political leader visiting our festival during centenary year.

On the same night, famous music director brothers and former residents of chawl – the late Kalyanji and his younger brother Anandji presented an orchestra called ‘Sangeet Prasad‘.

Anandjibhai revived some of his childhood memories when he was staying in chawl no 4. Both acknowledged their debt to the chawl saying they owed their success to the sanskars they received in the chawl. The artists who participated in the orchestra included Viju Shah, Sadhana Sargam, Sonali Bajpai, Sudesh Bhosle, Baby Shaheen and Johny Lever. No need to mention, this was quite appreciated.

The part II of the cultural programmes presented by local residents took place onSunday, September 6. The colourful entertainment programme included Ganapatismaran, Naman, Koli Dance, Garba, Bharatanatyam; Bhangra, a few selected dances from a television programme Maharashtrachi Lokdhara and a comedy play called ‘Amhi Jato Amuchya Gava’. Majority of the participants in these programmes were the active workers of the Sanstha. During the day they would work for the festival and in the night they would rehearse for the programmes. It was because of them that the cultural programmes became hit.

Every year, the Sanstha holds competitions for residents during the festival but for the centenary year, considering the time and space constraints, competitions were held before festival started. The winners of carom and musical chairs were given prizes by National weightlifter Vasant Joshi and cricketer Umesh Kulkarni (ex-resident of chawl) on September 7. They also received special certificates produced for the centenary.

On the same day which was Ekadashi, a keertan was held, as is the custom of the festival here. Narendrabao Hate, Malgundkar, Suresh Bhave and Kamlakar Aurangabadkar presented a chakri keertan (keertan by rotation).

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Centenary Ganesh Festival    (contd…)

One of the most memorable programmes of the festival was Pt. Hridyanath Mangeshkar’s ‘Bhavasargam’ which took place on Tuesday, September 8.

Mangeshkar spoke of his experience in the field of music and of the ‘cheeja’ from classical music on which he has based some of his songs. Mangeshkar was well accompanied by Sonali Rathod. The popularity of Mangeshkar can be gauged from the fact that music lovers did not move from their seats between 10.30pm and 3.30 am next day.

On Wednesday, September 9, Annakot was held. This is a competition in which local residents prepare interesting dishes from suggested ingredients. These are judged by a judge invited specially for the occasion. A one-man collection of Ganesh idols was also held at the venue at the same time.

The same night a touching farewell ceremony was held. Former Assembly Speaker Balasaheb Bharde was the chief guest.

Tuesday, September 10, The grand final of a festival, which was full of high quality, programme. All the active workers of the festival were visibly upset. The expressions on their face said that they did not want the festival to get over so soon. With heavy hearts they did adieu to their dear Ganesh. Celebrities like L. K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Sachin Tendulkar, then BMC commissioner Sharad Kale visited the festival and had a darshan of the Ganesh idol. Devotees from Girgaum and suburbs queued up to take his darshan.

The Sanstha workers did a wonderful job of maintaining discipline among the devotees during the day and the audiences during nights. That’s why crowd-pulling programmes like the Kalyanji Anandji and Pt. Hridayanath Mangeshker could be managed.

Religious programmes are an integral part of our festival. In the centenary year apart from keertans, pravachan, Mantrajagar and Sahastravartan, there was a bhajan programme everyday. Also two Yagnas-Ganeshyag and Brahmanspatisukta were held.

What needs to be mentioned about the festival is the mandap and decoration. Art direction Manohar Achrekar had freated a mahal from Peshwa era. A metal foil work of Ganesh idol, craved by young artist Suresh Ghewde was also attracting attention. Pt. Hridayanath Mangeshkar complimented it in one word ‘Khandani’.

A remarkable achievement of the centenary year was that the young workers of the chawl united like never before. May the lord inspire them to be one in future too!

Vrunda Juwale

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                 Origin of the Ganpati Festival

This colourful festival is a very Maharashtrian one, which is celebrated with great gusto. In fact it is the most popular festival in the State. There are several reasons for this. Ganpati is after all a popular god. His blessings are invoked at most religious ceremonies as he is the god who can remove all obstacles to success. He is the giver of fortune and can help to avoid natural calamities. He is also the god who brings prosperity.
Ganpati, the god of wisdom and the benevolent deity of the dynasty of Peshwas who ruled Maharashtra inculcating a special culture in the state. Ganpati is the herald of auspicious beginnings and is the beloved deity of all Maharashtrians.
The Ganeshutsav was celebrated at the houses of leading Sardar families like Patwardhan, Mujumdar, Khasgiwale etc. In 1893, Sardar Nanasaheb Khasgiwale for the first time celebrated the utsav as a public festival and that year Ghotawdekar, Kasgiwale and Bhau Rangari these three Savajanik Ganesh utsav’s were celebrated and for the first time There was a procession also taken out on the roads. The well known freedom fighter and statesman, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, saw in the festival a way of uniting people in a common cause and in this manner a possible means of bringing about political consciousness under the guise of a religious celebration, with freedom for India being the ultimate goal. Lokmanya Tilak also started celebrating Ganesutsav as a public festival by establishing a Sarvajanik Ganpati at Vinchurkarwada in 1894 and today it is the most popular event in the State. It was a unique move by this freedom fighter, which he achieved with the Ganpati Visarjana or immersion procession which is taken out on the final day of the ganesh festival.
The ten-day festival starts from the fourth day of the bright half of the lunar month, Bhadrapada and continues till the fourteenth day. Thousands join in and form the many processions that fill the streets when the time comes for the image to be immersed in water…the sea, river or lake. The festival brings with it a feeling of comradeship. Everyone wants to participate.
On the first day the clay form of Ganpati is brought home with great devotion. Prayers are said and songs chanted to the accompaniment of music from the mridanga or two-sided drum and the jhanj or cymbals. Some devotees select and buy their Ganpati on the same day and others place their orders months in advance. The figures are often very large, standing several metres high. These larger Ganesh images are usually ordered by neighbourhood puja committees, the entire neighbourhood contributing towards the purchase.
After the Ganpati image is collected it is ceremoniously installed in a place of honour and various rituals take place. The Ganpati is decorated with ornaments, flowers and lights. Puja and aarti are performed every morning and evening using flowers, rice, betel nuts and leaves, turmeric, red powder, coins and oil lamps. Men and women, the old and young all join in.Special sweets called modaks are steamed or fried for offering to Ganpati. Modaks are small rice or wheat flour dumplings stuffed with coconut and jaggery. These are served at the festive meals during the festival. Additionally, a large variety of savoury and sweet snacks such as karanjis, ladoos, chaklis, kadbolis and anarsas are distributed to devotees and guests during the pujas.
On the tenth day of the festival this happy loving god leaves for his celestial home and is immersed in water. Huge processions made up of different groups all accompanying the image of Ganpati that they have worshipped, make their way by foot to the immersion site. The very large images are transported by truck. All this is done to the accompaniment of dancing and singing. The mood is jovial with everyone chanting, over and over again,“Ganapati Bappa Morya, Pudhchya Varshi Lavakar Yaa…” calling Ganpati to come again soon next year.
The sight of the crowded streets, the different Ganesh images and the happy people is an amazing spectacle. In large towns special roads are demarcated for these processions and the traffic police and users of cars, buses and two-wheelers display notable patience with the crowds and never-ending processions.
However, it is the stupendous scale of this festival, celebrated by communities of people in the cities and villages of Maharashtra, which attracts millions of people to the state. Some of the community idols are as tall as 20 metres. These are set up in large pandals, worshipped for 10 days and then taken to the sea in immense processions for immersion. Not only are the massive idols the attraction of the festival, the plays, musical soirees, contests of skill, bullock cart races, swimming galas -all of which are planned in different venues -are events which show the enthusiasm of the people. Undoubtedly, Maharashtrians love Ganpati.


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