''Ganesh Chathurthi'' - Why did patriot Bal Gangadhar Tilak popularize it?

Happy Vinayaka Chathurthi 2021. spotboye.com

Among the Hindu festivals one of the most popular one that is being celebrated  arcos India is Ganesh Chaturthi, also known as Vinayak (or Vinayaka  Chaturthi).  It is also widely celebrated in countries where  large Indian communities  live. For  millions of people it is an occasion to rejoice because every Hindu festival or ceremony commences with a prayer to God Ganesa. When new businesses are open  or the foundation for a building complex is laid an  innovation  to  Vinayaka is a must and the priests conduct first puja to him.   Every Hindu household in India has a picture or an idol of Lord Ganesha, the younger son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati in the Puja room. Ganesh Chaturthi falls on the fourth day of the new moon in  the Hindu calendar month of Bhadrapada. In the north particularly, it is  a 10-day festival  that ends on Ananta Chaturdashi.

Pilliyar Patti Vinayakar, TN. upload.wikimedia.org

Above image:  Pillayar Patti Pilliyar (Vinayak) temple, Thirupathur Taluk, Sivaganga District, Tamil Nadu: administered by the  Nattukottai  Chettiyar Community (successful business community, native of Chetti Nadu). This temple is exclusively dedicated to Vinayaka.  The idol in the image is pretty old - 7th century  rock-cut Vinayaka  idol (Karpaga Vinayakar).  This temple was completed in the 8th century. 

The iconography of Ganesha is unique and unusual  in several ways. 01. He has has only two hands, 02.  He holds sweets in his right hand. 03 His trunk is curved toward  the right side, 04. Later images  typically show him with four hands, trunk turned left and holding sweets in one of his left hands. 05. In the case of  Karpaka  Vinayakar image, his left tusk is broken suggesting that some of the iconographic features of Ganesha were well established by the time this image was carved out of rock. 06. Locals call this relief as Valampuri Vinayagar.  07. There is a 7th-century inscription near him that refers to the relief as "Desi vinayagar" (.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karpaka_Vinayakar_Temple) ..........

With respect to popularity of  Vinayak Chathurth, there are some versions. Since God Ganesa being the family deity  (Kuladevta) of the Maratha Peshwa, it was Shivaji Maharaj who popularized the grand celebration of this festival.  However, historians have different opinions about when people started celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi in public places  in India. Linking  Vinayaka Chathurthi with  the freedom struggle during the colonial rule under the Raj, it was freedom movement  that  gave a big boost to this festival.  My father used to tell me that this festival  assumed national importance  when freedom struggle was in full swing and freedom fighters across the land  were working  in tandem  to free India from  the oppressive British rule and their exploitation. That centuries ago this festival became  a symbol of the nationalistic movement  is quite true and the person who popularized  Vinayak Chathurthi was none other than  Bal Gangadhar Tilak,  (also known as  Lokmanya Tilak), an Indian nationalist, teacher, and an independence activist. Tilak was the first leader of the Indian independence movement. He was one of the first and strongest advocates of Swaraj ("self-rule").  V.O. Chidambaram pillai  (the patriot  from Tamil Nadu who ran the first  Swadesi shipping company) was one among his closest associates like Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajapat Rai.  The British colonial authorities called him "The father of the Indian unrest."

When the administration of Indian subcontinent  came directly under the British Crown in London after the end of East India Company misrule in 1857-58 (soon after the great rebellion against the EIC's unjust rule), the British government  was careful about  political meetings in public places against the British -India government.  To stop  the spread of demand for free India, the government carefully  promulgated  certain civil laws in 1870  to prohibit gathering of people more than 20 in public places without permission from the government. This way they could gag the  patriots venting   their voice against the British administration. However, the government  gave exception to religious functions or gathering in public places Muslims were allowed to  do their Friday Namaz in the mosques.  

Bal Gangadhar Tilak, teacher and freedom fighter.ritiriwaz.com

Tilak and his associates diligently used the holes  in the civil laws to  curtail the mobility of  freedom fighters. He was quite particular about  popularizing  Vinayak Chathuthi  festival by displaying the idol of Ganapathy under a pandal or canopy in public places.   Huge gatherings at various places would provide  an ample opportunity for the senior patriots to  silently pass on their political moves or messages to the people without raising suspicion among the government officials.  It  served dual purposes - spread of Bhakti and  freedom from the foreign rule.  Tilak's idea of using Vinayak Chthurthi as ruse to wood wink the British and to exchange ideas  about freedom struggle  gained  currency and several leaders across India  had begun to follow it. 'Tilak  successfully  turned the private, household Ganesh Chathurthi celebration into the present day carnival.''

Patriot Tilak and Vinayak Chathurthi. itzeazy.in/blog

In 1893,Lokmanya Tilak praised the celebration of Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav in his newspaper, Kesari, and dedicated his efforts to launch the annual domestic festival into a large, well-organized public event. Taking the cue from leaders like Tilak,  in the 1890s  in Mumbai and Pune devotees in large number gathered in public places to celebrate the 10 - day festival. The experiment that  began in  Mumbai and Pune had spread to other cities and towns.  Such religious events in public places  being the first ones,  the British  were  helplessly and took part in elaborate cultural events and religious gatherings. Parallel with the religious fervor also ran a hidden undercurrent of   nationalism, patriotic zeal and  freedom from the British yoke.  People got a chance to pray to Lord Ganesha  and silently worked concurrently  with  local leaders to chalk out ways and means  to  get the country free from  the colonial atrocities. The public religious function  became a silent platform for political activism and unity among the Hindus to work for a common cause - breathe the fresh air of  freedom and be free to take the country forward.