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History and significance of Ganesh Chaturthi

Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated with pomp and gaiety, especially in Maharashtra. The birth of Lord Ganesha, which falls on 4th day of the bright half of Bhadrapad Shukla (August/September) is celebrated as Ganesha Chaturthi. This festival is celebrated for 10 days from Ganesh Chaturthi - birth-date-to Anant Chaturdashi - the final 10th day of his immersion.

Lord Ganesha who is considered to be the god of wisdom, prudence and prosperity has been worshipped right from the Vedic times. Every religious ceremony is completed even today with invoking his blessings at the very beginning with the solemn recitation of "Om Ganeshaya Namaha" (I bow to Thee Lord Ganesha).

In Pune, Ganesh festival is being celebrated since the days of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the founder of the Maratha Empire. Later on, the Peshwas participated in this festival, as Ganesh was their family deity.

With the end of the Peshwa regime this festival lost its glamour and came to be observed privately in households only. Thus many years passed.

Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, mobilised people through public Ganesh Utsav which was until then confined to the homes of the people and palaces of Maharajas. His motive was to unite people and strengthen the patriotic fervour in Indians. Hindus came together for the festival which became a source of political awakening against the British regime. People forgot their caste and creed to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi

Today this festival is the most colourful and joyful event in the religious, social and cultural life of India, especially that of Pune.

The 10 days are full of worship for the Lord, celebrations and social gatherings.

However, somewhere down the line, people have forgotten the spirit behind public celebration of Ganesha festival. Yes, the festival still brings people together but the emphasis is now more on enjoyment- dancing on blaring music, drinking liquor and gambling.

If only people celebrated the festival, keeping in mind its historical significance, it would add a different colour and flavour to the celebrations.