Life goes on as usual. Household chores, a bit of gymming and some outing with friends! Nothing much eventful it seemed, until a couple of days back when driving back home I happened to get stuck in a traffic jam on the highway (nothing new or surprising, I know). As I indulged in one of the favourite timepass hobbies of most of the people driving their vehicle and who get stuck in traffic jam, peeping out of the window and looking into other’s vehicles most of the time or in general check what’s being sold on the streets or if any new stores have come up by the roadside, a black tarpaulin covered tent caught my eye! Well, well even as we think that the days are monotonous, nothing much interesting happening, it seems a few are working day and night! They are those dedicated people who are masters of their craft and are spending hours in making one of the most favourite festivals of Maharashtra as colourful and jubilant as possible!
And the Elephant God is silently looming large over us in the background to make a grand entry! In just about a month’s time, the entire country would be celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi and Maharashtra, in particular, would be celebrating with the fervour it’s famous for! And Mumbai, I don’t think any explanation is required about the way in which it’s celebrated. It is always the colourful celebrations, puja, prasad, music, processions and the vigour with which people get together to celebrate this festival that is evident all the time. But the efforts, the work, the time and energy which goes into making these Ganpati idols that we worship and pray to during the festival is to be seen to be believed.
This big tent by the roadside and quite a few Ganpati idols in the making caught my attention! It occurred to my mind that it is always those decked up Ganpati idols that we see everywhere. It would be an experience to see these idols in the making and document the process. Well, armed with my camera, next day morning I was sheepishly sitting in front of the worker and requesting him if I could sit and watch them in work and then in the process click some pictures! The craftsmen gladly agreed and got busy in their work as I spent the next 3 hours exploring the entire workshop.
It’s an extremely interesting experience to sit and see the people go about their job with such dedication. The job is divided amongst all the workers. A few are experts in preparing the coir that is the base material which goes into the mould. Another person is skilled in mixing the materials and preparing the mould! At another corner, yet another skilled labour is spray painting the idols which have already made their way out of the moulds! The scraping of the extra clay or the POP from the idol to give it a perfect look goes on in another silent corner. There must have been about 30 big and surely about 30 medium sized idols of Ganpati in this workplace.
The curious kitten that I am, I made my way to yet another huge workshop the next day – this, a recommendation by a friend who knows about my photography passion. A huge area, a mind-boggling set of idols and the craftsmen busy with the work, left me totally amazed. With my eyes popping out and mouth wide open, I must have spent the initial 10 minutes doing nothing but gape at all those idols at the venue. Easily some 500 idols of Ganpati could be counted in this workshop! Well, seeing those huge idols decked up and sitting cozily in the pandals or during the procession is fine. But at one place these many idols and a few really huge ones in various stages of completion left me speechless.
As I walk along the corridors in-between these idols, I also get a glimpse into the decoration part. In both the workshops I visited I saw that girls, as well as boys, are involved in making the decorative items like the jewellery, headgear for the idol etc inside the workshop itself. The idol once completed will be spray painted and given the finishing touches and then sent for accessorizing and decorating. The jewellery made as per the requirement is then used to decorate the idol.
As I walked around and clicked pictures, I had an insightful chat with the craftsmen even as they concentrated on their work. This idol making skill is generally passed on from one generation to the other in the family. Many craftsmen from various other states of India find their livelihood here in Mumbai by working during this period. Their creative side can only be judged by seeing these exclusive idols being made. Big idols are made to order and the idol is prepared as per the sketch they receive from the clients. The huge idols are used mostly in the sarvajanik pandals (the public tents). A casual enquiry as to why the environmental friendly clay idols weren’t made in larger numbers, the reply also happened to be very casual – whatever the customers demand, we make them! So, smaller, bigger, clay or no clay, colourful or just simple, whatever the size or material in which the idol is made, the celebrations are always grand.
Making the Ganpati idols is a big industry I am told. A little bit of surfing on the net enlightened me that ‘Pen’ in Raigad district of Maharashtra is known to craft the major part of the idols. Well, if one is interested in visiting these Ganpati idols making workshops, one can easily visit them in Mumbai. I am told that the lanes in Parel, Chinchpokli or Lalbaug could be explored. I happened to visit these workshops closer to home. Right on the highway in Kandivali (East) and the other workshop is located on the Borivali/Malad link Road (west). The latter happens to be quite a big workshop and learnt that there were quite a few visitors to this workshop in the past few days – some for school projects, a few to decide what idol to take home this year and a few curious minds like Me!! The owners at both the workshops were quite friendly and kind enough to let me spend a couple of hours watching the work in progress and also make some images.
With the festivities just a few days away, I now await eagerly for the festival to begin! Some pandal hopping, a few images here and there and hopefully, I can post a sequel to this – ‘Ganpati Fervour’!
Many thanks to Sri Sai Arts Workshop, Borivali (West) and the other workshop by the highway who gave me an opportunity to spend time and document their work!
- Curious to learn about how this work of art is worshipped, its festivities and the themes of Ganpati click here.