Malegaon: Dileep Pawar, his wife Manisha and children Ankita and Rahul are since last five years regular visitors of the Shree Matamath Taleem Sangh in Malegaon during Ganesh Utsav. However, when they strolled into the venue this Saturday, instead of decoration depicting events of cultural and historical significance, they were greeted by a huge billboard.
"In solidarity with the drought hit farmers and the powerloom weavers who are under tremendous pressure due to slow down in the market since February, Shree Matamath Taleem Sangh has decided to cancel the annual Ganesh Chaturthi decoration and also tone down the 10-day Ganesh Utsav", the billboard said,
The billboard had pictures of a worried farmer sitting helplessly on a barren land and a closed powerloom unit.
Maharashtra and other parts of the country are hit by worst drought following poor monsoon of last two years. Likewise, the powerloom industry in Malegaon is in red since February due to closure of textile processing units in Pali, Balotra and other Rajasthan cities.
The situation has left thousands of people jobless and the industry incurring a huge losses every day.
"For the grim economic situation prevalent in Malegaon and elsewhere in the state, we did not find it suitable to indulge in any kind of celebration this Ganesh Chaturthi. Hence, barring a somber and simple Ganesh immersion, we have cancelled all other events", Chotubhai Jagirdar, president of the Sangh, said while talking to ummid.com.
He said that unlike the general perception that Lokmanya Tilak was the first person to celebrate Ganesh Utsav in Pune in 1892, Shree Matamath Taleem Sangh celebrated Ganesh Utsav in 1891 - a year before Tilak. The festival, patronised by Raje Bahadur (a descendant of Raja Naro Shankar), was since then celebrated every year with extraordinary gaiety, fervor and enthusiasm.
Unlike other parts of Maharashtra where plays and other cultural events and decoration are organised entire ten days, in Malegaon such events are organised a day before the Ganesh idol immersion.
"This is the first time in its 125 years of history that Shree Matamath Taleem Sangh has cancelled Ganesh Chaturthi decoration and decided to tone down the 10-day annual festival", Jagirdar said.
Shree Matamath Taleem Sangh has a budget of about 03 lakh for Ganesh Utsav. The money is collected from its 700 donors.
"We don't force anyone to donate for us. Shree Matamath Taleem Sangh has such a standing that our 700 donors willingly contribute cash for Ganesh Utsav. This year too, despite drought and market slow down, they were ready to extend monetary support for the ten-day event. But, we refused considering the gravity of the situation", Manish Patil, a member of the Oraganising Committee of Shree Matamath Taleem Sangh, said.
Shree Matamath Taleem Sangh is considered as a symbol of communal harmony because of its location which is adjacent to more than 150 years old mosque. Incidentally, it is also said that, like Ganesh Utsav, Raje Bahadur had also patronised Muharram procession organised by Muslims.