InOnIt Lens: Making of the True Indian Idol: Lord Ganesha

“Ganpati Buppa Moriya pudchya varshi lavkar ya.” These words will be resonating from every street of Mumbai in the next couple of weeks. Even though the festival is about a month away, the preparations for the beloved deity are on in full swing.

On the way to college, work and school, one cannot help but notice the growing number of tarpaulin covered Ganesh Karkhanas. These Ganesh workshops have all sorts of idols that go from small to big, with various Hindu mythological characters and some innovative twists of ornaments and clothes to adorn the most celebrated God in Mumbai.

It is too early to catch any finished ready to go idols yet, but I thought the entire process of making them would be interesting and exciting in a whole different way.

So I did my regular research and found that there are in fact three famous Ganesh Karkhana’s in the city. So I packed up my camera, journal and a bottle of water and set out to visit these Ganesh workshops.

My first stop was a workshop in Goregaon, which is owned by two bright young men named Sachin and Latesh. They started this business 6 years ago. Since then, their tiny space has expanded to two big work stations in Bangur Nagar, Goregoan West. They specialize in making idols that are shipped to various places abroad. The exceptionally interesting thing about these Karkhanas is that most of the craftsmen here are Muslim. Some of them have been doing this for over 20 years and have a number of young guns joining in too.

In a country where every other politician is trying to stir up anti-religious sentiments, we have a group of people who fast all day during Ramzaan (which happens to fall during the same month) for the God they believe in and carve out beautiful idols of a God their fellow brethren believe in.

The next stop was at the world famous Ganesh Karkhana owned by Mr. Vijay Khatu at Parel underground railway.

There are over a 100 craftsmen working in this Karkhana and over 50 of them are from Uttar Pradesh. You will find people from all age groups working here, some who have been working here for over 50 years.

These workers live at the workshop around the clock, making sure every idol is made to perfection. I spent about two hours at the workshop, managing to speak to almost all the workers there. They offered me tea and also shared their experiences about how for some of them coming to Mumbai this time around is like a break from the regular work at the farm.

In the end, some of them requested for their individual photographs to be taken. When I asked them if they wanted to go clean up n change into something else, they instantly said “No, this is what we do and we want to show our families pictures of us making the famous Ganesh Idols.”

They all have such passion and honesty towards their work, be it the man who prays to a different God or the one that belongs to a different state. A close friend of mine enlightened me on the true essence of this glorious festival. She said that Lokmanya Tilak transformed the annual domestic festival into a large, well-organized public event. Tilak recognized the wide appeal of the deity Ganesha as “the god for everybody”. He started this in order to bridge the gap between people that was created by the British Raj. Somehow during this visit, all these words seemed to transform into reality, as though I had experienced the true spirit of the festival.

- Margaret Jeyaraj

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