Ganesh Chaturthi 2018: Tracing the evolution of Ganpati idols sans 1893

Sep 22, 2018, 08:10 IST | Rimita Majumder

Among many things Mumbai is synonymous with is its over-the-top Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. What started out as modest, clay idols, has reached an ostentatious 30 feet. As we bid farewell to Bappa, mid-day takes you through the idol's evolution

Ganesh Chaturthi 2018: Tracing the evolution of Ganpati idols sans 1893
Illustration/ Ravi Jadhav

In 1893, when the British imposed the no-public gathering rule to suppress an uprising by Indians, Lokmanya Tilak came up with the idea of using Ganeshotsav to mobilise people. At the time, the idols were 2-feet-high, with most being made at home. It became a sarvajanik celebration in the year 1892 when Bhausaheb Laxman Javale installed the first such idol in Pune.

In 1977, in honour of 50 years of its Ganeshotsav's sarvajanik (public) celebrations, Parel's Ganesh Gully, popularly known as Mumbaicha Raja, brought home a 22-feet-high idol. Because clay was too soft a material to hold up a gigantic idol, sculptors began to use Plaster of Paris. The cost proportionately increased, where a 10-foot-high idol cost Rs 50,000-75,000.

As height increased, so did the decorations of the idols as well as the pandals. The GSB Seva Kendra Mandal idol, said to be the richest in Mumbai, adorns its idols with almost 70kg of pure gold and 470kg of pure silver jewellery. In 2014, the GSB Seva Mandal in Sion had got an insurance cover of Rs 258.9 crore and Lalbaugcha Raja was insured for Rs 51 crore. That year, the total insurance cover for pandals across the city was Rs 450 cr. Sculptors also began to use toxic paints to make the idols attractive. Mandals started using malleable thermocol for decorations.

With the height of idols going up to 25-30 feet, revenue collection through donations, advertisements and sponsorships has become the current norm. Ganesh idols have become money-spinners. Rs 14 crore: Donations Lalbaugcha Raja collected in the year 2012 in cash and gold Rs 70-80 lakh: Donations Ganesh Gully got last year.

Environmental connect
When asked about the extensive use of PoP in idols, sculptor Rajan Khatu says, "About 20 years ago there were not as many pujas happening in the city. The demand has increased manifold. It's not possible to make so many clay murtis, as it takes three days to prepare one. Whereas, 20 PoP idols can be made in a day." When asked whether mandals are looking at implementing eco-friendly ways of celebration, Swapnil Parab, secretary, Ganesh Gully, says, "We have been using
fibre decorations and herbal colours."

Evolution's downside
* PoP is an industrial material used for packaging. It's cheap, easily available and works well for big idols. When mixed with water, it turns into gypsum, which takes about 17 years to break down.
* Over the years, lead and arsenic based metallic paints have replaced organic colours. These colours contain metals, which reduces biochemical compounds like oxygen, CO2, proteins and lipids in water.
* Apart from these, the increased use of grease, oil and polish further deteriorates the sea life.

Eco-friendly innovations
* Over last couple of years, Mumbai has seen giant Ganesh statues made from Mentos candy wrappers.
* In 2016, an NGO based in Mumbai had started making Ganpati idols of clay stuffed with food, which fishes can eat.
* Several sculptors in the city have started using cow dung instead of clay.

Khaitarabad in Hyderabad is known to have the tallest Ganesh idol at 60 feet. It is popularly known as 'Khaitarabad Ganesh'. In 2011, the tallest one was in Visakhapatnam (70 feet)

2 feet
Height of Ganesh idols during the early years of celebration

8.5 feet
Height of this year's Andhericha Raja idol, which has been constant since establishment

18 feet
Height of idol recommended by BMC

22s feet
Height of Ganesh Gully idol

Days taken to make a 20-22 feet idol

23 feet
Height of Khetwadi Ganraj idol in 2010

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