Till 1893, Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations were a private affair, not done on a public scale. People used to celebrate it in a traditional manner. It was Lokmanya Tilak who popularized Ganesh Chaturthi as a national festival, after visualizing its cultural importance. The reason for this was to enhance the sense of belongingness as well as togetherness among the citizens. It was also done with an aim to build a new grassroots unity between the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins.
Ganesh Chaturthi was an important festival during the Peshwa rule in Maharashtra. It acquired a more organized form all over India during the Swaraj movement, when Lord Ganesha was chosen as a rallying point for protest against British rule, because of his wide appeal as "the God for Everyman". One of Tilak's strongest movements to evoke nationalism, through religious passions, was the organization of Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra, which inspired feelings of Hindu unity in the state.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak was the first person to install large public images of Ganesha in pavilions and he was the one who established the practice of submerging all the public images on the tenth day of the festival. Ganesh Chaturthi soon started seeing community participation and involvement, in the form of cultural events. It also served as a meeting point for common people of all castes and communities, at a time when social and political gatherings were forbidden by the British Rule.