Lokmanya Tilak was witness in 1892 where he saw the grand scale on which the Ganesh festival was celebrated in Gwalior and the enthusiastic participation of people therein. This alone inspired him to make the Ganesh festival a public event in Maharashtra. He saw an urgent need to reshape the Indian society based on our own heritage and philosophy. He severely criticised the blind imitation of western ways and said that it amounted to spiritual and moral bankruptcy. Tilak wished to bring about social change for political reasons too. He was convinced that social change was the key to political awareness. The country was under a foreign rule.

oil portrait-tilak

It was necessary to arouse the masses to oppose the tyrannical British Rule. It was necessary to stir the masses and mobilise public opinion for national ends. To achieve the desired result it was necessary to awaken the masses and what else would be fit than the already popular Ganesh festival?

Pune Festival – A gem in Cultural Festivals, 1989 – 2005

This is the 17th year of the Pune Festival. At the pinnacle of representation of cultural pride, in Maharashtra, the Pune Festival, which is part of the Ganeshotsav festival completes 16 years of celebrations. This milestone is indeed a cultural landmark in the history of Maharashtra.

Pune Festival encapsulates various cultural vignettes. It is not celebrated just as a festival, but, as a ‘people’s festival’, it represents unity in diversity and brings out in the ‘Best Colours’ – the cultural fabric of Maharashtra and, for this reason, Pune Festival stands out as a ‘Gem’ among the cultural festivals of Maharashtra.

Under the able leadership & guidance of Shri. Suresh Kalmadi M.P., the Pune Festival has made a long journey of success, over the past 16 years. It has in fact, taken a turn to become a Cultural Revolution of sorts in Pune.

Nurturing the cultural fabric of Pune:

Like every city, Pune has an identity of its own, very different from any other city in India. Pune is the ‘Oxford of the East’, sporting capital of the country, the cultural seat of India, city of festivals and fast emerging as an IT leader in the country.

Pune festival is the city’s tradition and the cultural identity. Over the past 16 years, the festival has also proved to be a medium of understanding the social and cultural set up of the city and has been a rich learning experience.

Every year blossoming a new aspect of cultural diversity in Pune and year after year, finding a new meaning to the cultural fabric, the Pune Festival has shaped up the fundamental social-cultural set up of Pune. This unique social-cultural leadership of Pune in the country is going to achieve new heights in the times to come.

In the same spirit of cultural & religious representation, the Ganeshotsav remains a cultural gift by Pune to the country since the 19th century. In the heartland of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj – Maharashtra, under the cultural vision & inspiration of Lokamanya Tilak & Punekar’s tradition of the ‘Common man’s – Ganeshotsav’ has shaped up the social & cultural meaning of Pune.

As the years have gone by, mindsets have changed and the cultural composition of Pune has undergone a sea of change and Pune Festival has all along reflected this change.

Beginning’s of Pune Festival:

Shri. Suresh Kalmadi M.P., the common man’s leader in Pune, has set a vision for Pune, which converges at the pinnacle of development in Sports, Culture, Education & Technology. This is a very unique combination of ‘developmental agenda’ taken up by no other city in India.

Shri. Suresh Kalmadi’s political commitment, a continuous thrust for development & unmatched resourcefulness and organizational abilities have rightfully earned him the status of the being the City’s leader. To put Pune at the top of the world tourism map is one of his strongest ambitions. Pune’s industry and local businesses could immensely gain from this. It would also create employment on a large scale. With this in mind, he envisaged a Pune Festival around the Punekar’s Ganeshotsav (a festival close to their heart). The cultural blend with the ‘Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav’ is the pillar of strength for the Pune Festival. This great cultural vision of Shri. Kalmadi, for Pune, stands today as the ‘Pune Festival’, which was started in 1989.

When the Pune Festival was started in 1989, a page in the history of Pune was inked forever. As the years passed a massive gathering of party workers, who were ignited with a new spark in their thinking of Pune, provided the much-needed impetus for growth of the Pune Festival. It grew from strength to strength as years passed by.

The Pune Festival is jointly organized by the people of Pune, Pune Festival Committee, Department of Tourism (Government of India) & Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC)

The glitter of Pune Festival:

Right from the first year of its inception, the Pune Festival became an institution of its own. In the beginning, the Pune Festival was organized in a big Mandap at the vacant plot next to Nehru Stadium, in Balgandharva Ranga Mandir, Tilak Smarak Bhavan & Ramachandra Sabha Mandap.

This cultural celebration of Pune’s tradition became a continuous phenomenon in Pune’s cultural identity. This cultural platform provided by the Pune Festival resulted in P.M.C taking up the task of building the Ganesh Kala Krida Manch with a seating capacity of 3000 and two large exhibition halls. Never in the history of Pune was a hall with seating capacity of 3000 available till such time for cultural purposes.

The Pune Festival begins with ‘Ganesh Pratisthapan’ – the installing of Lord Ganapati’s idol for the first time during Ganeshotsav’ at Hotel Saras Complex, Nehru Stadium. Eminent local artists, journalists and other cultural symbols are invited for this ceremony and thus begins the two week cultural extravaganza – “Pune Festival”

The itinerary of the Pune festival in these two weeks is mind boggling. National & Internationally renowned artists showcase their performances in Vocal Recitals, Instrumental Concerts, Dance, Lokatal Lavani Mahotsav, Urdu Mushaira, Marathi & Hindi Hasya Kavi Samelan., Lokanatya, Recipe Competition, Flower Decoration, Mime & Mimicry, Magic Show, Decoration Competitions by various Ganapati mandals depicting various Mythological facts, Clean-Slum Competition, Single Act plays, Maharashtrian Women plays, Mahila Mahotsav, Marathi-Gujarathi-Hindi-English-Sindhi Drama festivals, Marathi Orchestra’s, Gujarathi Dairo, Kerala Mahotsav, Maharashtra Lokhadhara, Ganapathy painting exhibition, Vintage car rally, Water Sports, Motocross, Body Building, Ashtavinayak Rally, Skating Competition, Bicycle Competition, Golf Competition, Trekking, Malla Kambh, Yoga, Doi Sezim Spardha, Bullock Cart race, Village Fair’s, Seminar on tourism Promotion in India & Maharashtra and various other cultural items.

A cultural festival of this caliber & magnitude – Pune Festival – is the only one in the country & is being organized for the longest period of time now. Pune Festival is undoubtedly a ‘Pride of Pune’. All programs & participation’s are completely free of charge.

Nationally & internationally renowned artists have performed in various parts of the country. But Pune Festival holds the distinction of organizing the maximum number of such performances. Pune Festival’s ‘Shobha Yatra’ was the main attraction of Pune Festival. National artists from all over India would take part in their State Costumes. It was an incredible picture of National Integrity. The Pune Festival represents the unmistakable secular structure of our country & is a great symbol of National integrity and provides for the only chance to listen to some World-renowned Shayars & Poets at the All India Urdu Mushaira, Hindi Haya Kavi Samelan.

World & Nationally renowned artists who have performed in the Pune Festival thus far:

Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Pt. Ravi Shankar, Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, Ustad Bismillah Khan Sab, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Asha Bhosale, Hema Malini, Meenakshi Seshadri, Jagjit Singh, Anoop Jalota, Kishori Amonkar, Anuradha Paudwal, Bala Murali Krishna, Remo Fernandes, Gurudas Mann, Udit Narayan, Kumar Shanu, Usha Uthup, Pankaj Udhas, Hariharan, Louis Banks, Shubha Mudgal, Nitin Mukesh, Pratibha Pralhad, Shovana Narayan, Ranjana Gauhar, Bharthi Shivaji, Pt. Bhavani Shankar, Ustad Safad Ahmed Khan, Pt. Rajan & Sajan Mishra, Alka Yagnik, Pt. Satish Vyas, Shiamak Davar, Jatin-Lalit, Varsha Usagaokar, Urmila Matoandkar, Surekha Punekar, Apsara Jalgaonkar, Rohini Bhate, Suchita Bhide Chaphekar. Performances by these great artists have taken Pune Festival to great heights of ecstasy.

Guest’s who have made the Pune Festival proud:

Dilip Kumar, R.K. Laxman, M. F. Hussain, Majhroo Sultanpuri, Javed Aktar, Pt. Sardar Jarffry, Sashi Kapoor, Dharmendar, Vinod Khanna, Kaifi Azmi, Madhuri Dixit, Shabana Azmi, Subash Ghai, Yukta Mookhey, Ritu Beri, Dr. Jabbar Patel, Pooja Bhat, Amisha Patel, Pooja Batra, Aditya Pancholi, Shakti Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor, Anupam Kher, Shekar Suman, Fardeen Khan. Other celebrities who have taken part – Vindha da.Karandikar, Narayan Surve, Arun Date, Baba Saheb Purandare, Ramdas Phutane, Chandrakanth Gokhale, Sonali Kulkarni, Mahesh Kothare, Yogachari Iyengar….

Dignitaries, who inaugurated the Pune Festival, have left an indelible mark in the cultural history of Modern India:

Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma, K.R. Narayanan, Bhairaon Singh Shekawat, Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Sharad Pawar, Madhav Rao Scindia, Shivraj Patil, Gulab Nabi Azad, K.P. Singh Deo, Vilas Rao Deshmukh, Ramkrishna Hegde, Manohar Joshi, Dr. P.C. Alexandar, Gopinath Munde, Sudhakar Naik, Amitabh Bachan & Aishwarya Rai.

Industrial Giants who have been Chief Guest’s at the Pune Festival:

S.L. Kirloskar, Rahul Kumar Bajaj, Neelkanth Kalyani, Vivek Goenka, K.L. Chugh, R.M. Dhariwal, Vijay Mallya. Apart from this, Ambassadors to India from various countries, Foreign Travel writers, Foreign travellers been part of this Festival.

Great Achiever’s who have been felicitated at the Pune Festival:

Kavi Pradeep, Dilip Kumar, Yogacharya Iyengar, Vindha.da. Karandikar, S.L. Kirloskar, Lawani Samrat Yamuna Bhai Waikar, Poet Mangesh Padgaonkar, Poet Na. Dho Mahaner, Dr. Vijay Bhatkar, Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar, Dr. Jabbar Patel, Nana Chudasama, Ritu Beri, Ramdas Phutane. Sarvajani Ganeshotsav Mandal’s who have completed 100 years of Celebrations have also been felicitated at the Pune Festival.

On the 10th Anniversary of Pune Festival, 10 outstanding achievers were felicitated:

Shobha De, R. K. Laxman, Sonal Mansingh, Nana Chudasama, Sharayu Doshi, Devadrat Mehta, Rohini Bhate, Surendra Chauhan, Kamalakar Sontakke, Pradeep Bhide, Krishnakanth Kudale.

Film actress and Member of Parliament Hema Malini has a very unique association with the Pune Festival – the first performance of each of her ballet’s is performed at the Pune Festival. This indeed is an Honor for the Festival.

Marathi Programs held at the Pune Festival:

Maharashtra’s Literary Legend – Pu La Deshpande, Poetess Shanta Shelke, A special function in memory of 75 years completion of Prabhat Cinema.

Other events: Marathi Hasya Kavi Samelan, Old Marathi Songs, Marathi Natya Sangeet, Inter Collegiate Drama Competitions. Also the play which wins the first prize in the Maharashtra State Drama Competition has also been staged. Marathi Drama Festival, Lawani Festival, Marathi Bhakti Sangeet Festival and various other Marathi programs have been a major attraction of the Pune Festival.

Marathi Theatre’s famous couple who have taken part in the Pune Festival:

Mr. Ashok & Mrs. Nivedita Saraf, Laxmikanth & Rui Berde, Sachin & Priya, Ramesh & Seema Deo. Other artists like – Sulochana Didi, Narayan Surve, Pha Mu Shinde, Vinda. Da Karandikar have also performed at the Festival.

Compeer’s for the Pune Festival in the past:

Pradeep Bhide, Devika Nadig, Sudhir Gadgil, Chaman, Jayram …

The Current generation achievers who have taken part in the Pune Festival:

Esha & Ahana Deol (Daughters of Hema Malini), Ayan & Aman ( Sons of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan), Rahul Shiv Kumar – Son of Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, Srinivas Joshi – Son of Pt. Bhimsen Joshi.

Pune Festival has never failed to keep up to its social Commitments. Be it the drought situation in Maharashtra or the recent floods, Pune Festival has contributed large sums of money towards Relief Fund’s.

Success of the Pune Festival thus far:

Pune Festival is considered the Mother of all Cultural Festivals in India. A large number of Festivals have taken a cue from the Pune Festival and come into existence – the Pimpri – Chinhwad Festival, Nashik Festival, Paithan Festival, Parbhani Festival, Karveer….and many more.

Next Generation Cultural Talent Search as part of the Festival:

Upcoming artists in the age group of 7-15 & 15-25 are given a platform and these people have gone on to achieve National & International fame:

Shaunak Abhisheki, Bela & Savni Shende, Sharvaree Gamins, Shefali Lahoti, Sanjeev Abhaynkar, Tejaswini Adiga ….. and many more……

There is strong belief in the parents of Common Punekar children that Pune Festival is indeed a great platform to launch their children’s careers & Pune Festival has resulted in a great surge in parents encouraging their children to take up their Extra-Curricular activities. This is indeed a great victory for the Pune Festival.

Pune Festival has become a cultural movement of sorts. The local artist, Schools, Dance Group are turning out to be the biggest beneficiaries. These days, it’s a matter of immense pride for any school in Pune to take part in the Pune Festival.

The Inauguration Ceremony this year to will be Live on Door Darshan & a half an hour highlight capsule would be telecast, everyday, on all days of the festival. Apart from these various News Channels – International, National & Local channels also give exhaustive press coverage. Other print media like – News papers, Magazine and other cultural & social publications cover the Pune Festival in great detail. There is a tremendous surge in the acceptance of Pune Festival as an integral part of the way of Life in Pune by the common Punekar’s.

Women on a very large scale take part in the Pune Festival as volunteers, co-ordinators, performers & spectators. Mrs. Pune & Mahilaotsav are very popular aspects of the Pune Festival. And thus Pune Festival successfully addresses the issue of Women’s empowerment.

National & International Corporate have increased their exposure, by way of sponsorship, in the Pune Festival substantially. They see a great value proposition and are greatly benefited through the return on investment they make. Pune Tourism & local employment has immensely benefited from the surge in International & National Travelers generated out of the Pune festival.

Shri. Suresh Kalmadi’s , vision, leadership, organizational abilities & resourcefulness have given a new meaning of existence for the Pune Festival & continues to generate even higher aspirational levels to the Pune Festival.

We pray Lord Ganesha that he takes Pune Festival to greater heights and provide a new meaning to the way of life for Punekar’s.

Over the years some of the artists and performers who have graced the stage are:

* Pt. Bhimsen Joshi
* Pt. Ravi Shankar
* Balmurali Krishnan
* Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia
* Ustad Bismillah Khan
* Ustad Amjad Ali Khan
* Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma
* Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt
* Kishori Amonkar
* Hema Malini
* Sonal Mansingh
* Meenakshi Sheshadri
* Shovana Narayan
* Pratibha Prahlad
* Sucheta Bhide-Chaphekar
* Shubha Mudgal
* Rohini Bhate
* Alarmel Velli
* Mallika Sarabhai
* Jagjit Singh
* Anup Jalota
* Pankaj Udhas
* Peenaz Masani
* Dr. Veena Sahasrabuddhe
* Hariharan
* Usha Uthup
* MF Hussain
* Javed Akhtar
* Ali Sardar Jafri
* Late Kaifi Azmi
* Asha Bhosale
* Anuradha Paudwal
* Udit Narayan
* Kavita Krishnamurti
* Kalyanji-Anandji
* Nitin Mukesh
* Alka Yagnik
* Gurdas Mann
* Remo
* Shaimak Davar
* Amit Kumar
* Kumar Sanu

Other eminent personalities and film stars who have been a part of the Pune Festival celebrations are:

* Late Shri Shankar Dayal Sharma (Former President of India)
* Shri KR Narayanan (Former President of India)
* Late Shri Krishnakant (Former Vice President of India)
* Shri P.C. Alexander (Former Governor of Maharashtra)
* Amitabh Bachchan
* Vinod Khanna
* Shashi Kapoor
* Dharmendra
* Rakhi
* Jackie Shroff
* Madhuri Dixit
* Dilip Kumar
* Tanuja
* Govinda
* Esha Deol
* Pooja Bhatt
* Amisha Patel
* Fardeen Khan
* Bindu