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Even after a century, the public celebration of Ganesha has continued to forge the feeling of communal and linguistic harmony.

Freedom fighters from Belgaum Govindrao Yalgi and Gangadhar Rao Deshpande first planned to host Ganesha festival as a public event in 1905 for the cause of uniting the people of all faiths to fight against the British. The first ‘sarvajanik’ Ganesha idol was installed at Govindrao Yalgi’s residence.

In 1906, they invited the freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak who had popularised celebration of the Ganesha festival as a public event to mobilise the freedom fighters.
Ganesha idol was installed at a pandal at Zenda Chowk to accommodate the huge crowd and since then Zenda Chowk Ganesha Utsav Mandal has continued the legacy and was leading the celebrations. Now, the mandal has extended its activities and has organised body-building competition this year.

In the last 105 years, the number of Ganesha idols installed in the pandals in the City alone was around 300, and over 3,200 idols are now being installed in the entire district. People belonging to different caste, creed, language and faith coming together to celebrate the 10-day Ganesh festival on a single platform is now a common scene. Ganesha festival celebrations have witnessed a sea change during the past century. While oil filled lamps used for illumination and decoration of the pandals during the inception of the fest here, the same have now been replaced by digital display boards and lighting.

Source: Deccan Herald

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