Conversations Ganeshotsav

Continuing the legacy of Tilak

With the ongoing Ganesh Utsav, Rohit Tilak speaks to us of carrying forward the legacy of Lokmanya Tilak at Kesari Wada and of Ganeshotsav in Pune…

Tradition and lineage means something in India. And the Tilak family has been making sure that they carry the work put before them by the legendary doyen of Indian freedom movement, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak. One of Lokmanya’s contribution (an important landmark, we say) would be the revival of the Ganesh Chaturti celebrations in Pune, for bringing all the communities together and also developing national pride among the people against the British rule. Today, the festival has reached epic proportions and become the face of cultural Maharashtra. Rohit Tilak, the fifth generation of the family to carry the traditions especially from Kesari Wada, knows his work and makes sure he follows the path laid by the legendary family patriarch. He speaks to The Punekar about carrying the traditions and his views on the celebrations happening around.
As the fifth generation of the Tilak family, please share the vision which Lokmanya had in mind, the one which might have passed down generations.
The main idea was to stand against the Britishers. They had made a law against groups being formed. But he thought that they could not stop people coming together for religious work. So the Ganesh Festival was revived. People brought it ahead and conducted the celebrations. A certain awareness about issues and social awakening was done here. He was working on the grounds that all communities should come together. The freedom movement would get strong due to this.
rohit tilakThe Kesari Wada Ganpati has a special hold over the masses. What kind of emotions do they have for it, according to you?
It had become a centre point for all movements including the Goa movement. The community dinner happened here which lead to breaking on caste barriers. The emotions for the freedom movement were attached here. People visit this place due to its connections with Lokmanya Tilak. Some even take the soil from this place with them. In around 2008, we established the silver idol permanently so that the puja keeps on happening.
Do you really believe what he was striving for and always wanted, has been achieved?
As a matter of fact, it has grown bigger. People come together and in fact, loads of them are from other places too. The strength is there. This has been achieved. The celebration pattern has become different now. Quite a few prefer dancing while the music systems play music. But now mandals are also doing social work all year round. The decoration has to say something, pass a message. That is good. Bringing back the dhol-tashas is the one good change. Despite the regulations put on them, many from the educated class come in to participate in playing them. Right from students to the IT crowd, everyone comes together. The society is also getting a certain direction from all this, in a good way. Tradition is being carried forward, though entertainment factor is also coming in.
In terms of being the fifth generation of the Tilak family to carry the name forward, what kind of responsibilities do you have, especially in terms of carrying the Ganeshotsav traditions?
To handle the masses is not easy and it is our duty to carry this tradition. I make it a point to give advice on social responsibilities. If you notice, why is it that no riots took place here? That is because people would come together for functions like these.
What more can be done to uphold the values laid down by Lokmanya Tilak?
The funds raised by the mandals can be used for social causes. So many people visit these mandals. They can be given a right direction or platform to take up issues. You have to bring them together and mobilise them over issues so that they can be sorted out. You can pick up one issue like say cleanliness and people will come ahead to support you.