THE GANESH Utsav celebrations in Bhopal started more than five decades back - in Saifia School — when Bhopal still held the status of Bhopal State.
The new generation might not know the fact that the first Ganesh Utsav was organised by the Maharashtrian community at the old Saifia School in the early 1950s, which is a living example of the communal harmony in those days.
School headmaster the late Neelkanth Deobhakta was the man to take the lead. The first idol was crafted by the late V M Deshmukh, who went on to become the deputy finance secretary to the Madhya Pradesh government.
“The founder of Saifia Education Society, late Mulla Sajjad Hussain, was a liberal person and he allowed the first celebration in the school’s hall,” reminisces N N Deobhakta, son of the founder. “It was the first public celebration of Ganesh Utsav festival in Bhopal and was participated by about ten families of the Maharashtrian community,” he added.
Another witness to the celebration, senior journalist C K Naidu, said that during the celebration, cultural programmes like three-act plays, dance competitions, film shows and various other contests for all age groups were organised. “The celebration lasted for full ten days and it still brings back the nostalgia of yesteryears, when we used to be children and participated in a small tableau for kids”, he recalls.
However, the growth in Ganesh Utsav celebration bears a deep socio-cultural reason. The first public celebration took place in Bhopal when it had the status of Bhopal State. With the reorganisation of the State in 1956, Marathi-speaking people came to the City from the adjoining states of Indore, Gwalior, Nagpur and Rewa, then ruled by Holkars, Scindias and Bhonsles. “Initially, the community lived in small vicinity, but over the years, with increase in population and job prospects, they scattered and Ganesh
Utsav began in different pockets,” says Milind Kulkarni – a lifetime member of Maharashtra Samaj. “Those days, there was no TV boom and the Maharashtrian community, having a strong passion for theatre and music, organised several cultural programmes during the celebration, more on a traditional manner, unlike today,” he adds.