Ganesh Chaturthi – When the Elephant God Comes To Earth
India is a land of festivals and filled with more than a thousand Gods to worship. This is the beauty of the Indian culture and the essence of Indian customs.
Come August – September and Indians get ready to celebrate the various festivals which dominate the Indian calendar. Ganesh Chaturthi is one such Indian festival which is celebrated with a lot of pomp, fervor and devotion. Said to be celebrated in honour of the Hindu God Lord Ganesha, this elephant headed divine symbol is said to be a remover of obstacles and also the God of Wisdom.
It is celebrated in the Indian month of Bhadrapada on the Shukla Chaturthi. The Chaturthi in the Indian calendar is the fourth day of the waxing moon period. The festival is celebrated for ten days and the final day is called the Anant Chaturdashi when the images of the Lord are symbolically immersed to signify the end of all evil and weaknesses.
Installation and Preparation
In houses the festival begins by installing the clay images and worshipping it with various herbal leaves, plants etc. It was believed that the herbal leaves used for worship purify the water of the lake when the idol is immersed. Many Hindus install idols in their homes and perform the immersion.
This year I decided, I must go and visit these artisans who create magic in the air and are responsible for so many of these idols on display. Ramesh Shelke and Ganesh Naik were two people I met in the workshop busy with their stuff and they sure had a lasting impression on my mind. Here I share my experience at their work place and bring to you the facets of making the final beautiful Ganesh idol in Mumbai, in the state of Maharashtra in India.
The preparation usually begins from bringing the mud from the riverside and lakes, sieving it and getting it ready. Raw forms of the Lord are made and brought into workshops by artisans. In Maharashtra, Pen is a very popular place where the clay forms of the idol made from material called Shaadu Maati are brought in. I saw these artisans at work and marveled at their workmanship.
After the raw forms are brought in, the artisans work on it by applying Plaster of Paris and give it a finishing. This includes carving out the basic designs with the help of a pointed stick and applying clay or plaster wherever necessary. The mud form is now gradually developed into a white plaster of paris idol. As the artisans painted the plaster, the idol seemed to dazzle in the glow of the sunlight falling on them. A small shanty on the side of a very busy highway in Mumbai and behind a line of trucks parked on the kerb, and these artisans were busy at their work quite oblivious to all this.
Painting the Features
After the white idol dries up, it is given a coat of paint. The body is given a light colour and the other features like the dress and the upper wear are given the due colours. Gradually as the idol is given the finishing touch, various features are given enhancements. Important body parts like the eyes, nose and the mouth are given a proper definition and care is taken to paint them with great caution. It is important to get the shape and the look right and Indians believe that there is a lot of divine power in the eyes and smile of the Lord. I removed my footwear as is the Indian custom when we enter any place where statues of Gods are kept, and saw the artisans at work. While one was busy stitching clothes, there was another painting the eyes. There was a third busy with a machine, polishing the statue.
Polishing the Idol
Then there are others who work on the idol more and give it the polished effect. This is usually done with the help of a machine. The artisan holds the machine and sprays the polish on the idol along with the paint thus giving it a final look. There is a lot of importance given to specific details and it is crucial to know how to get the right effect. Apparently painting the eyes of the idol is usually done by the best artist who would have a steady hand.
Dressing the idol
All idols in the Ganeshotsav or the Festival of Ganesha are dressed in royal costumes and the grandeur and regal nature of the statues are enhanced by the best colour combinations used in the attire. The tailor cuts and stitches the clothes to perfection after taking the measurements. Special care is taken to get the right combinations and matching the colours and hues is a major task for the artisans. Ideally the Lord is dressed in darker shades or golden hues to get the godly effect.
Packing For Transporting
The statues are now ready and are covered with a sheet of polythene so that they do not get dirty and so that they look fresh till the date of the festival. They are taken by the respective organizations or groups, or individuals amidst lot of fanfare and finally the Lord arrives in the “mandaps” or decorated stages ready for public view. I saw a row of idols ready with a polythene cover waiting to be picked up by a prospective buyer.
Ganpati Bappa Morya
Long live Lord Ganpati – Ganpati Bappa Morya ! This is the cry heard everywhere in the Indian state of Maharashtra during this festival. It is a unique feeling to see the fervor around celebrating this occasion and it indeed is worth every moment spent. This year the festival falls on September 17, 2016.