Behind the tough cop, lies a meticulous craftsman
Police naik Ganesh Ramdas Turke, attached to Samarth police station’s detection branch, is one of the illustrious cops working on the Dr Narendra Dabholkar murder case. While maintaining law and order and solving crimes is a demanding job, Turke still finds time to create his own clay Ganesh idol during Ganesh Chaturthi. In fact, this policeman has been doing so for the past 25 years, in a bid to make the festival more eco-friendly.
“When I was 10 years old, my friends and I were flying kites in our balcony, when I noticed my neighbour, a senior citizen, making an idol of lord Ganesha from Plaster of Paris. I went up to him and observed the process. Then, I bought clay and approached him to teach the idol-making process to me, which he did. My attempts failed initially, but after a couple of days, I got the hang of it. Since then, I have been crafting my own Ganesh idols,” says Turke, who hails from Gondia and currently resides in the Phadke Haud area.
This year, Turke has prepared a Ganesh idol using banana leaves in just three days. “Each year, I make a replica of famous and interesting Ganesh idols like the Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati, Krishna Ganpati, Ganpati in the form of Shivaji Maharaj and others, he said, adding that he starts making the idol 10 days prior to the festival, and visits various idol vendors to observe what is new in the market.
“This time, I made a banyan leaf Ganesha because my son demanded it. Also, due to high alert in the city this year and the mission to nab Dr Dabholkar’s culprits, I had less time. I was on duty from morning to late evening, so late at night, between 2 am and 4 am, I would make my idol.”
Twashta Kansar Ganesh Mandal
While everyone considers Kasba and Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati as the oldest of the Ganpati mandals in the city, there is another mandal, which is over 100 years old, and while it isn’t quite as famous, it is just as illustrious.
This is the Twashta Kansar Ganesh Mandal, situated at Kasba Peth, started by Raghunath Rajaram Lombar in 1883, taking inspiration from Lokmanya Tilak’s ideology of celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi as a social festival.
The most unique feature about this mandal’s idol, is that it is made up of the wood of the Shami tree. Every year, members of this mandal get together to undertake a social cause. This year, they will be conducting a medical camp where members of all age groups will be able to get a medical check-up done for free. They will also be holding a lecture series on cancer. Apart from this, the mandal will also be conducting a dhanyatula of all the senior citizens of the area. “Foodgrains that will be weighed against them will be donated to orphanages and old-age homes. These social initiatives are being undertaken since the last 10 decades or more. We are very committed to our role in contributing to society every year,” says Umnesh Nijampurkar, chairman of Twashta Kansar Ganesh Mandal.
Another speciality of this mandal, is that it has a theme-based procession during Ganesh Visarjan every year. “The theme changes every year. In the past, we have worked on numerous themes like the Maharashtra-Karnataka border issue and atrocities on women, among others. This year, the theme is Kerala, and we will all be seen wearing the traditional outfits of that state,” says Nijampurkar.
Ganesha is known as Vighnaharta, or destroyer of obstacles, which is why he is worshipped prior to undertaking an important or auspicious new endeavour.
The Ganesha idol is high on symbology, with the modak in the elephant god’s hand representing the sweetness of the unadulterated inner self, his large belly signifying nature’s bounty and the noose in his hand indicating that material attachments are a noose.
It is believed by some Hindu mythology experts that on the day of Ganesh Chaturthi, the supreme destroyer Lord Shiva declared his son to rank higher than all other gods, with the exception of Vishnu, Laxmi, Parvati and Shiva himself.
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated with much aplomb by people outside India as well, in countries like the United Kingdom, France, the US, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore and Mauritius, among others. In fact, Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in Mauritius date back to 1896.
It will surprise you to know that over 250 Ganesha temples exist in Japan. He is primarily known as Kangiten in that country, but just like in India, there are various other names that are associated with him. Most of the times, Kangiten is depicted as a sole, male deity, but his other forms also include the Embracing Kangiten, which shows a male and female elephant-head couple embracing.
‘Carving the eye is most difficult’
Who would have thought that a change of residence would prompt one to make his own Ganesh murti during Ganesh Chaturthi — a tradition that would continue for 33 years? Well, this was exactly what happened with Prashant Joshi, owner of the famed Interval Bhel House at Rasta Peth, who has been making his Ganesha idol himself since 1980.
“My father used to sell Ganesha idols during the festival, but once we shifted residence, he stopped doing so. So, I thought I would make them instead, and took some clay to a man who had casts for these idols. But the owner wouldn’t let me use them. That is when I started crafting my own Ganesha idol,” says Joshi, whose idol every year weighs 5 kg and measures up to 10-12 inch in height. The pose of the idol is typically traditional and cross-legged, and the decoration around it varies every year.
The idol-making process takes about a month for Joshi to complete. Crafting the idol takes around four days, and must be done when the clay is wet. He then keeps the idol aside to dry for around 12 days and subsequently polishes it with a primer. Once this is done, Joshi paints the idol’s body, followed by painting its garments and then accessories like bangles and necklaces. “But the most difficult part is the eyes. It isn’t easy to get the right nazar,” Joshi says, adding, “This year, my idol is entirely red-orange in colour.”
Amongst his favourite decorations surrounding the idol is the one he created a couple of years ago, placing mirrors on all four sides of the murti. “You could see the idol’s reflection in all the mirrors, which gave you the feel of watching Ganesha’s infinite form,” says Joshi. So, does he feel sad when immersing his creation? “Yes, I do feel a twinge of sadness,” he replies.
‘Sculpting Bappa is like meditating’
If there is one thing actor Raqesh Vashisth has religiously done since the age of 10 years, it is sculpting his own Ganesha every year during Ganeshotsav. Recalling his days when he learnt to make his first Ganesh idol, Raqesh shares, “I learnt the art of idol making from a man who lived near a temple on the outskirts of Pune. I was very fond of trekking and discovered him during one of my trips when I was around 10 and started visiting him every evening after school. I was fascinated by the way he would create amazing idols with his bare hands, mud and clay.”
Raqesh picked up the art in a few months and started to create idols during Ganeshotsav.
“I made these idols and sold them to friends. It was my way of earning some extra pocket money. That apart, it taught me to be focused and patient. The process brought in a lot of changes in me,” adds Raqesh, who starts working on his idol a week before the festival every year.
The sculpting takes six hours after which it has to be left to dry. The painting and other finishing touches are done after a day or two. “It is a quick process and very easy. It is eco-friendly as well, since it only includes mud and clay.”
Raqesh further admits that the process puts him in a different space altogether. “It helps hugely in finding my inner self. I feel elevated, relaxed and manage to find all the answers to my questions. It is a spiritual experience for me and works like meditation,” he says.
This year, his wife Riddhi helped him with the decor and patiently sat by him while he sculpted their idol. “My best Ganeshotsav has been in 2010. This year, I am looking forward to a joyous time with my family over lunch. Festivals, especially this one, are all about bonding and spending quality time with closed ones.” Natural and fresh flowers is the theme for this year at this actor’s home.
A dream come true for this young artist
Perhaps the most enthusiastic craftsmen of Ganesh idols are not men and women at all. They’re young boys and girls, who find childlike delight in creating an idol of Ganpati bappa. One such young girl, who crafts her own Ganesh idol, is student Ishita Kulkarni.
Kulkarni had been trying her hand at idol-making during Ganpati since the past two years, with little luck.
“I just wouldn’t get the idol right. But my parents encouraged me to pursue the activity nevertheless, after which I enrolled in an idol-making workshop. This three-hour workshop, held at Kothrud, taught me how to make attractive Ganesh idols,” says Kulkarni, adding that she was on cloud nine after successfully crafting her own idol.
Kulkarni’s idol this year, is made of clay and is yellow in colour, with some glitter added to it. She says that her primary motivation behind creating her own shadu clay Ganesh murti was the fact that it is eco-friendly.
“Every year, as soon as the festival gets over, you see broken idols floating in rivers and washing up on river banks. This greatly upsets me, which is why I wanted to create my own biodegradable idol, which would easily dissolve in water,” Kulkarni adds.
Understandably, the young student is jubilant at having her own handcrafted idol ready, calling it ‘a dream come true’ for her.
As per Hindu texts, the idol of Ganesh has to be made of clay and mud. Plaster of Paris and other artificial products should be avoided. This, in today’s day, helps prevent water pollution too.
The trunk of Lord Ganesha should face to the left and natural colours should be used to paint the idol.
Durva offerings should be in a bundle of 21 which prevents the aroma from escaping and freshens the area.