From the outside, Bhausaheb Rangari Bhavan looks like a quaint place that hasn’t been visited by anyone in years. But, just one step inside is enough to know that the place is bustling with activity as preparations for to celebrate its 125th Ganeshotsav are in full swing. The air is mixed with the smell of freshly painted walls and looming dust from the renovation taking place.
It was Bhausaheb Laxman Javale who, in 1892, started the concept of celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi by involving the public and making it a festival open to all. Javale’s ancestral business was that of dyeing sarees which is where he got his name Rangari from. In a bid to get rid of the British rule, Rangari realised that the best way to mobilise people was by uniting them through the Ganapati festival. On hearing this, Bal Gangadhar Tilak wrote about Rangari’s work in his newspaper, Kesari.
Bhausaheb Rangari’s wada or a traditionally built house was also the place where many freedom fighters met and even stored weapons that have been discovered. The house was built in such a way that there are secret tunnels that would help the revolutionaries escape. Cabinets were built in the walls wherein arms and ammunition were kept hidden from the probing eyes of the British.
The Ganapati idol that is placed here is quite unique. It is made from the pulp of paper, cloth and husk. The elephant god, with a heroic expression, is seen pinning a demon down with his trunk. The demon supposedly symbolises the tyrannical British rule.
This year, for the first time, the Bhausaheb Rangari Trust has decided to open its doors and display all the memorabilia that has been collected like books, portraits, letters, arms and even the article by Tilak in Kesari. “This is perhaps the birthplace of the first public Ganapati festival in the whole world and the museum will be open for a year it will be free for everyone to come and view the artefacts,” says Dattatreya Mane, the caretaker of the Bhavan.
To celebrate the 125th festival, the trust has also planned several activities to promote education amongst children whose families cannot afford it. They also plan on encouraging women’s self-help groups and even host an elaborate Rangoli display.
This site has also become a part of the ‘Ganesh Walk’ which will be organised by city-based heritage organisation, Janwani. “The walk will be conducted by historian Mandar Lawate during the festival and will trail the five Manache Ganapati spots as well as the Bhausaheb Rangari Bhavan,” says Suchitra Joglekar, project coordinator at Janwani.