Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1920)
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To understand the true essence of the Ganeshotsav in Pune, a visit to the five ‘manache Ganpati’ or temples of honour is a must.  Just few yards away from each other, they have been famous since hundreds of years in the old city of Pune.  It is believed that celebrations of the festivities are incomplete without seeking their blessings; therefore, thousands of devotees flock here during the ten day festival.

The first in the list is Kasba Ganpati which is considered to be the oldest deity of Pune. We at The Punekar reveal a few facts about the divine Kasba Ganpati.

It is said that the idol of Ganesha was first found outside the house of Vinayak Thakar, an inhabitant, close to the residence of Queen Jijabai. Considering this as auspicious, Jijabai promptly decided to come up with a temple and started worshipping the lord. The Peshwas were known to be the ardent followers of Ganesha and during their regime; grand celebrations were experienced at Shaniwarwada.

Today the Kasba Ganpati Mandal has kept the tradition alive and organises massive celebrations to mark the Ganesh festival.

The ten day long festival is celebrated with zeal and gusto by the association. During the festivities, members arrange for several cultural, social and personal developmental programs. The cultural programs include bhajans, satsangs, dance and singing competitions. Free eye and blood check up camps are also arranged to help the needy.

Social issues have also been the prime concern of this mandal and hence they use this festival as a medium to create awareness about sensitive and important subjects. Women empowerment is another area the mandal concentrates on and therefore one of the days is dedicated to the women. On that particular day, women are in charge of entire activity of the mandal. Right from performing puja to doing rangoli, prasad and handling the guests, all is managed by the participating women.

Ganesh Utsav in Pune was initiated by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Ganpati to bring people together. But as time passed, who would lead the immersion procession became a matter of pride for every mandal, rising to disputes amongst them. To resolve their differences, Bal Gangadhar Tilak gave Kasba Ganpati the privilege of leading the procession as it is the Gram Devat or the presiding deity of Pune. Since then, the Kasba idol has been leading the procession.

The procession of Kasba Ganpati is unique as they have banned the use of gulal as it is hazardous to health. During the immersion process, the idol is placed in a silver palkhi and carried by the devotees. Throughout the procession, volunteers dance to the tunes of dhol, making the entire procession memorable for onlookers.