Competing for place of pride at the Republic Day parade this year will be Maharashtra's float on tourism. Switch on your TV on January 26 and look for a dancing Nataraj, a man in a pillar, and the Ellora caves
The actual temple leaves me speechless. You wonder if human beings really built the temple," says Narendra Dattatray Vichare, former professor at Sir JJ Institute of Applied Arts. He is referring to the Kailash temple that forms the number 16 cave, believed to be one of the world's largest monoliths, at the Ellora Caves in Aurangabad, which Maharashtra will represent through a float on the theme of tourism at the Republic Day parade this year.
A 3D model of the float. Pic Courtesy/ Rudramani
Floats representing the states, government and private bodies are part of the yearly cavalcade, and this year, Maharashtra is one of the 14 states that has been selected to participate.
Vichare has been associated with this undertaking since 1984. This time, he will be in charge of translating this architectural wonder to a float. Explaining its many elements, he says, "Ellora Caves has two pillars. We are depicting one of them in such a fashion that the driver of the tractor is seated inside.
A mural of Gajantlaxmi flanked by two elephants will be in the front. We have also made the hall leading to the temple and the main temple with its intricate carvings, too. Since we are depicting Shiva, the committee suggested we do a Tandav for our ground activity. We also have a revolving Nataraj. At the back will stand a massive rock indicating that the temple has been carved from it. On the side of the trailer there will be carvings of nearly 40 elephants lifting the temple, as it is in the original."
The selection process is a meticulous one that starts in August when the Defence Ministry appeals to each state to send themes and sketches. Then the states ask for sketches from various artists. The sketches should represent the art and culture, history, and a unique feature or accomplishment of the state.
The judging panel consists of prominent artists, dancers, engineers, architects, historians, local magicians and officials. The actual float has to be within 45 feet in length, 14 feet width and 15 feet in height. A 3D model is then presented for approval. Once it is green-lighted, in the first week of January, the team is taken to Delhi where work begins. Vichare says security is tight at the military grounds, but you can see a mini India at work. "The states work in tandem. If you run short of materials you can easily borrow them from another. The other states often consult me for my design expertise."
He has help from art director Nitin Chandrakant Desai, who drew and built the sketches and model and Ajit Harishchandra Khot of Akarshak Graphics and his colleague Surendra Shivram Redkar. For Khot it's a matter of family pride. He says, "My forefathers were sculptors. Since 1967 my father was part of making the floats. I came on board in 1989." He sources 35-40 artisans, many from the Konkan region.
Elaborating further, Khot says that the trailers on which the floats are placed are driven by tractors. They have to take great care as they are not allowed to "hammer even a single nail" into the trailer. His team makes the mouldings and sculptures in clay, and then uses fibreglass to mould it into shape. The colours used are black and grey and the entire float has a stone finish.
Meenal Joglekar, joint director, Cultural Affairs, Government of Maharashtra has the last word. "Maharashtra means the grand state and we have a lot to offer --beaches, forts, temples, forests, hill stations along with a rich heritage. The float represents the state's beauty." Here's hoping Maharashtra emerges victorious.
Maharashtra is the only state to have won thrice in a row, thus ensuring that the rolling trophy is given pride of place at the office of the Cultural Affairs Ministry. In 1993 the state won for celebrating 100 years of the Ganesh Utsav started by Tilak, in 1994 for a float about the Alphonso mango and in 1995 for a float on Mahatma Gandhi. The state even won first prize in 1981 and '83 for floats on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and the festival of Bail Pola.
On January 23, a grand rehearsal takes place at the venue with a dummy president, vice president, other officials and foreign dignitaries. Even a crowd, like the one on the actual day, gathers. It all happens just like it would on January 26.