Pune is the heartland of the Ganesh Festival. Millions come together to celebrate the tradition which Chhatrapati Shivaji started to create a united culture for the community. Much later, freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak brought the festival out in the public space as a mark of protest against the British Raj which banned any cultural celebration. The festival is looked forward to with same alacrity and is celebrated with the same spirit even today all across Maharashtra. The cities of Pune and Mumbai have laid down the standards regarding the scale, volume, and quality of the celebrations.
Keeping rhythm with the rest of the city, SBS preparations for the festival began a fortnight prior to Ganesh Chaturthi. The creative team turned to brush and paint to create beautiful images of God Ganesha and erected banners, pandaals, and festoons in the campus, heralding the arrival of Ganpati Bappa. As the day of the festival arrived their artistic treasure opened and the whole of Sri Balaji Society was amused to see the decorations from the entrance to the lawns where Bappa would comfortably sit for five days. Student managers sprinted out of their lecture halls, as the last lecture for the day was cancelled, to welcome Bappa to the beats of a hundred Dhol Tashas. Yes! You read it right. Only the last lecture was cancelled! We studied diligently through the day.
The enthusiasm of the crowd could be gauged from the fact that despite dressed in formals, and having attended lectures since 8 in the morning, the student managers danced, and danced jovially to welcome Bappa. Undoubtedly, Bappa had arrived and the rolls of Dhol Tasha roared with all the student managers dancing and welcoming the one who was eagerly awaited. Enthusiasm was at its pinnacle as everyone welcomed the auspicious idol of Lord Ganesha into the pandaal designed as a replica of the famous ‘Shanivar Wada’, the seat of the Peshwas of Pune. The student managers, faculty members, and the staff devoutly attended the consecration of the idol and prayed for blessings upon the society. As a mark of esprit de corps, the honour of performing puja to the idol was shared equally amongst the four institutes of the society.