While it is still not clear when and how Ganesh Chaturthi started, it mostly used to be a family affair. People used to have their own Lord Ganesh idol in their homes for celebrating the festival. Lokmanya Tilak, saw the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi as an opportunity to bring people together and in 1893, he started organizing Ganesh Chaturthi as a public festival. Everyone one – Hindus, non Hindus, Brahmins, non Brahmins would come together. And as they say, rest is history. Ganesh Chaturthi became a widely celebrated public festival all over India, especially in Maharashtra.
Fast forward to 2008 – I moved to the US to pursue higher education and I realized that how powerful the thought of Tilak was. We are still carrying on the the legacy and the idea with which Tilak started Ganesh Chaturthi – bringing everyone together. For 5 days, majority of the Indian students in UMBC (and same is the case with most other universities in the US) come together and celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi. For the students here, it doesn’t matter whether they celebrate this festival in India or not. But they do come and celebrate it here in the US. It gives a sense of belonging and togetherness to everyone – as Tilak had envisioned, it brings everyone together.
And this is just one instance amongst many that you will find which shows how simple yet powerful Tilak’s vision was.