This family has brought home a Ganesha for the last 124 years
Since 1893, when freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak first floated the idea of a community Ganeshotsav, the Malvi family on Charni Road has been celebrating the festival.
“My great grandfather (TN Malvi) was a famous solicitor in those days,” remembered Mukul Malvi, 68, a resident of Charni Road.
“Once when he was a part of the Congress in pre-independence days, he was invited by Tilak to meet him, but he had difference with Tilak because their ideologies didn’t match.”
Still, the elder Malvi responded enthusiastically when in 1893, Tilak suggested a sarvajanik (community) Ganesh festival in his newspaper, Kesari. Tilak noted that Ganesh was “the God for everyman”, worshipped by upper and lower castes alike. A festival for the elephant-headed god could be a way to bridge the gap between Brahmins and non-Brahmins, he reasoned.
The Malvis were among the first families in the city to celebrate Ganeshotsav in 1893, when Tilak organised the first Ganeshotsav. Tilak’s was a bold move not only because it set aside traditional caste barriers, but also because the British forbade Indians from public gatherings at the time.
The Ganesha who came to the Malvi’s home at Cowasjee Patel Tank in 1893 has travelled with them and remains in Malvi’s Charni Road home even today, carefully kept in a Burma teak display case. “On the day of visarjan, on September 18, 1893, a son was born after three daughters, which is when he [TN Salvi] decided he would get Ganpati at his place from next year onwards,” said Malvi’s wife, Jayashree.
Malvi’s earliest memories of the Ganeshotsav at home are of bustling family gatherings. “When I was younger and we used to live in a bungalow, we had at least 75 close members from the family gathering for the festivity, including my grandfather’s sisters and also sisters of my great grandfather,” he said.
Jayashree said that though the decoration around the idol has changed from miniature statues made of lac to fresh flowers and other additions, the swarup (look) of the idol has remained the same throughout the years.
Though as many people don’t visit their home during Ganeshotsav now, they believe that the festival still binds the Malvi family together.