It is not exactly known since when the Favourite Festival of Maharashtra, Ganesh Chaturthi, is celebrated but the above-mentioned excerpt is one of the oldest official records describing the Sarvajanik Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrations (Source: Wikipedia)
Whatever the date may be, the fact is that ever since childhood I have seen that the Ganesh Festival is the most awaited festival in Maharashtra. Everyone from Kids to the Elderly waits for the Ganesh Chaturthi for almost the whole year i.e. ever since Bappa left last year.
He comes every year and brings us Joy and Happiness and leaves with all our Sorrows. Living up to his name 'Vighnaharta'. He may leave us physically but he lives in our hearts every second, every minute, and every day of the whole year.
Personally, I don't like the Visarjan or immersion of Ganpati Bappa in water, even though it is symbolic, I think the Idol of Ganpati Bappa should not be destroyed and must live with us forever. It is hard to break traditions but I personally never immerse or say Good Bye to Ganpati Bappa. I dare not destroy my Ganpati Bappa. Never.
I understand that many people make a living out of making these idols but I just don't feel like destroying something so beautiful.
Coming Back to the celebrations, Mumbai wins hands down in Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrations, close second is Pune. It's not that Ganesh Festival is celebrated in only these 2 Cities. During these 11 days of the Ganpati Festival, the whole State of Maharashtra gets decorated and the celebrations continue non-stop. Almost like a big 11 Day Carnival.
Only the Durga Puja in West Bengal comes close to the scale of celebrations during Ganesh Festival. Almost every Marathi Home installs Ganpati Bappa at the home even if only for a day.
Most people welcome Bappa for 3 Days and say farewell on the third day. During these 3 days, the household becomes Bappa's home and everyone gets busy pleasing the Elephant God.
Being a religious lot, we Sindhis too celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi with full enthusiasm. Almost 50% of Sindhis Welcome Ganpati Bappa to their homes. In fact Gujaratis, South Indians, North Indians everyone celebrates Ganesh Chaturthi. No other festival is celebrated like Ganesh Chaturthi. Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in many countries including the USA, UK, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and more
The atmosphere in the state of Maharashtra during these 11 days is like a Mega Carnival with music and lights everywhere.
You can get food/prasad almost nonstop during these 11 days, day and night. People distribute Food, snacks, Sweets, and whatnot at the Sarvajanik Pandals. I can bet that one can survive very well for these 11 days even without cooking food home. You will find a Pandal almost every few hundred meters away. Days and nights don't look the same during these 11 days. People go out and visit and enjoy different Pandals throughout the day and the night. The roads are full of people anytime and everywhere.
At home, people call family and friends to take the blessings of Bappa. It is said that Bappa takes all the sorrows with him. In fact, I have personally seen that people having troubles feel that all their worries are gone immediately after the Visarjan.
Almost as if Bappa took their troubles with them. I believe that one's faith in Bappa does the work. Bappa's blessings give extra energy to face and defeat the problems. Just looking at the Ganpati idol gives you that boost of positive energy. That is the reason why no new venture is started without the blessings of Ganpati Bappa.
Some say that Ganpati Festival was publicly celebrated in the times of Shivaji Maharaj on a grand scale. Shivaji and the Peshwas were devotees of Ganpati Bappa. They promoted the festival w and it was one of the biggest festivals of that time. Somehow the celebrations got subdued during the British Raj. Most people celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi only at their homes. Sarvajanik Ganesh Mandals or celebrations became almost nonexistent.
Later, it was our great Freedom Fighter Lok Manya Tilak who recognized the potential of Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrations to bring Brahmins and non-Brahmins together and reduce the effects of the Caste system in the society and bring unity among people. He promoted the Ganesh Chaturthi as a Public Festival.
Also, at one time Britishers had banned the assembly of people for political purposes. But they could not stop people from getting together for religious purposes. Lokmanya Tilak used this opportunity of the Ganesh Festival to get people together and fight the British.
You can say that Lord Ganesh blessed Lokmanya Tilak in his efforts to get Freedom for the People of India. Lok Manya Tilak's efforts in promoting the Ganesh Festival resulted in it being celebrated all over India on a very large scale. It will not be wrong to say that the present way of the Ganesh Festival is a result of the efforts of our great leader Lok Manya Tilak.
Coming to the present, the Covin19 has eclipsed almost all the festivals of India. We Indians like to get together with family and friends and celebrate life. But since 2020 the life is just not been the same. Almost all the festivals are stopped. No public celebration is allowed. In fact, all religious places are closed to the public.
People have lost jobs, many have lost their loved ones, almost all are struggling to lead a normal life. Almost everyone has some sort of problem.
Bappa will definitely listen to our combined prayers and give us the strength to fight and defeat the problems. Ganpati Bappa Morya!