The elephant in the room
With Ganesh Chaturthi less than a month away, city-based murtikars tell you what to keep in mind before you book the perfect idol
Mumbai's most loved festival, Ganesh Chaturthi is knocking on our doors and preparations have begun in full swing.
Though it is difficult to trace the roots of this festival pre-historically, it is clear from more recent records that it gained prominence during Chhatrapati Shivaji's rule and later, in the 19th century during the freedom movement under the auspices of freedom fighters like Lokmanya Tilak, who tried to inculcate the spirit of nationalism among communities in British India through Ganesh sarvajanik mandals.
Over the years, it has come to be a grandiose affair across the country. Amidst the revelry that comes with preparing traditional fare and buying décor to do-up your homes to welcome Ganesha, selection of the idol is among the most critical elements. We invite some of the city's well-known murtikars to share how it's to be done right.
Mangal murti, morya
"From a very young age, I was interested in the art and wanted to pursue it. In fact, unfortunately, I lost my admission into JJ School of Art because I fell short of three marks," recalls Yogesh Khamkar, 36, founder of Studio Smita Arts, a 12-year-old workshop in Tardeo. Having been exposed to the utsav culture which is integral to this city and nurturing an affinity towards Lord Ganesha, Khamkar forayed into idol-sculpting at the age of 24. "At that time Mr Vijay Khatu used to make these splendid idols and I found them to be quite fascinating," he shares, adding that though he didn't get the opportunity to learn art professionally, he has grown over the years by observing. "Thanks to YouTube and the Internet, I have picked up different styles and tricks," he shares. At present, there are three types of idols that are predominantly popular — Plaster of Paris (POP), clay and papier-mâché, which is slowly gaining more currency. Khamkar reveals that the demand for eco-friendly idols has been increasing, but typically, clay and papier-mâché idols take longer to make than POP ones. "If you have a budget, POP is the best because it's affordable and readily available. If you're opting for a clay idol, ensure that the height is not more than two feet because they are heavier. I do papier-mâché orders as well, but it's a cumbersome process because you have to first make a mould. So, for both these kinds, place the order at least six months in advance,"
At: Studio Smita Arts, Sane Guruji Marg, Tardeo.
Eco-friendly is the way
Vishal Suryakant Shinde, 40, started making idols at the age of six. "I am a second-generation murtikar and I took over my father's business. In 2011, I set up Trimurti studio in Lower Parel," Shinde tells us. The murtikar specialises in eco-friendly idols, and over the years, his orders have multiplied from 60 idols a year to 300 bookings this year. Speaking about his trade, he says, "The festival only ends once you immerse the idol. Unless it's made of clay that won't be possible. If your idol is floating around in the sea the next day, has your puja ended? My only motive is to ensure that my work is not harmful to nature, and I use my colours accordingly as well." However, he cautions us against POP idols masquerading as eco-friendly. The test of a true eco-friendly murti, Shinde says, lies in its weight. "A 1.5 feet high POP idol can be easily lifted by a child, whereas a clay idol of the same measurement will require two people," he shares.
At: Trimurti Studio, Busa Industrial Estate, Lower Parel.
Father to daughter
After famed murtikar Vijay Khatu passed away in 2017, his daughter, Reshma took over. "I am not perfect yet, but I have learnt a great deal in the last two years," the 34-year-old shares. Though Khatu was popular for the murtis he made for pandals, beginning this year, Reshma has started taking orders for smaller Ganeshas meant for home pujas. "My grandfather started out by making smaller idols. I am trying to bring that back." For this, Reshma has both sculpted and sourced pre-made idols from Pen village. "My father was too caught up with pandal bookings. I am younger, so I can handle both," she shares. While booking an idol, Reshma suggests that you ensure your Ganesha is in a relaxed position, and that the trunk of the Ganesha is towards the left-hand side, which is more auspicious. Check that the idol is seated on a comfortable platform instead of vahana. "People often ask for an idol that resembles Lalbaughcha Raja, but that is not ideal for a home puja. Keep it simple and rely on the tenets of the shastras," she advises.
At: Studio Vijay R Khatu, Anant Malwankar Marg, Lal Baug.
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