As the country celebrates Ganesh Utsav this year, it will be the first time post the pandemic that the festival will be celebrated without any stringent COVID-19 restrictions.
Ganesha, as most of us know, is lovingly worshipped and revered by millions of people worldwide. He is perhaps one of the most interesting deities in the Hindu pantheon. “The son of Shiva and Parvati, Ganesh, is the God of good luck and auspiciousness and is the dispeller of problems and obstacles -Vignahartha,” says an ardent devotee of Ganesha, Dr Suhasini Arya, Director of Mittal College.
Although it is unknown when (or how) Ganesh Utsav was first observed, the festival was celebrated as a one-day celebration since the era of Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj (1630–1680, founder of the Maratha Empire), according to the first historical record of Ganesh Chaturthi celebration. “Lord Ganesha was considered to be their Kuladevata or family deity and the Peshwa in the 18th century were devotees of Ganesh. This festival begins on the fourth day after the new moon in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada which usually occurs between late August and early September, depending on the cycle of the moon,” added Arya.
During the British Raj, the Ganesh festival in Maharashtra saw a new revival by Indian freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak who initiated the 10-day grand public celebration of Ganesh Utsav in the state.
Regarding the importance of the Ganesh Utsav in the freedom movement, Arya added saying, the festival became a meeting ground for people from all castes and communities at a time when the British discouraged social and political gatherings to control the masses. The festival facilitated community participation and involvement in the forms of intellectual discourse, poetry recitals, plays, concerts, and folk dances. Ganesh Festival was used to share knowledge and spare the message to fight for independence. Many freedom fighters influenced by Tilak, gave lectures on such platforms and endorsed the promotion of Swadeshi Goods.
Over the years one has seen the rise in innumerable Ganesha mandals that organize massive public celebrations for the ten days. They compete fiercely to introduce variety and a sense of the contemporary into their displays and the Ganesha statues installed by them. Usually, alongside the traditionally decorated idol, it’s not unusual to find themes selected from currently popular or significant happenings in our country. “This year too, especially after two years of the pandemic restrictions, the country is once again experiencing the marvel of the Ganesh Utsav,” she added.