The festival has been publicly celebrated in Pune since the era of Shivaji (1630–1680, founder of the Maratha Empire. The Peshwas (hereditary administrators of the empire from 1718 until its end in 1818) encouraged the celebrations in their capital, Pune, since Ganesha was their family god (Kuladevata). With the fall of the Peshwas, the Ganesha festival lost state patronage and became a private family celebration in Maharashtra. Later it got the much needed revival by Indian freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak. Tilak gave a makeover to the festival by converting it from a family affair (from the period of 1818 to 1892) to public celebration.
Tilak was impressed by the initiative by Bhausaheb Laxman Javale who installed the first sarvajanik (public) Ganesha idol. In 1893 Tilak praised the celebration of sarvajanik Ganesha utsav in his newspaper, Kesari, and the following year he installed a Ganesha idol in the Kesari office. His efforts transformed the annual domestic festival into a large, well-organized public event.
He was the first to install large public images of Ganesha in pavilions, and established the practice of immersing the idols in rivers, the sea or other bodies of water on the tenth day of the festival.
Tilak nationalized the festival to foster feeling of brotherhood and unity among the people of India. He also considered it as a great cultural context to banish the disparity between the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins. Ganesha festival actually brought together people of India from all social strata, and nurtured in them love for their nation in the crucial time of freedom struggle.