Tired and frail, he still plods on diligently, giving shape to mud moulds and making exquisite images out of thin air. Thirty Seven-year-old Ganesh, an artisan hailing from Solapur carries on without a break, working the whole day. He is an unsung hero. He has been painting and making Ganesha idols since he was 17.
Everyday, he paints alteast 40 idols (sizes ranging from five and a half to 25 feet). Usually molds and casts are used to replicate plaster of paris idols for the popular designs. But, at the moment there is a demand for a new design or theme, Ganesh starts to work with mud, dye, rubber, water colours, varnish and pearl powder to create an idol from scratch.
“I sleep for not more than three hours because there is a lot of work with the festival fast approaching. “There is no time to sleep even,” he says, while painting the eyelashes of the Ganesha idol and using the back of his palm as a palette. And, how does he manage to concentrate with hardly any sleep. He informs that he practices yoga for 30 minutes everyday without fail. Though a non vegetarian, he refrains from eating meat and drinking alcohol for those six months he is into painting and shaping the Ganesha idols. And when we ask him why he came to Bangalore, when the Ganesh Chaturthi festival is a big occasion back home, he says that the money is good here. “I manage to make `50-60,000 in a period of 5-6 months. I have two sons, aged 16 and 17, who also make idols back home.” And he smiles and says that of all the idols, the ‘Lalbagh’ and the ‘Spiderman’ idols are his favourite amongst all.
Stacked away in the corner of an attic, S Murthy is seen adding finishing touches to an idol. While polishing the intricate details on the lord’s feet, his wife Vijayalakshmi advises their son Manikandan to paint with passion. “I am an orphan and have no relatives. It is just me, my son, wife. We live for each other. My family abandoned me when I was very young. We keep juggling between Pondicherry and Bangalore every three months. We have lot of idols displayed here. Sometimes, we get special orders and those idols take a while to finish,” said S Murthy.
Ganesha idols are made in Bidadi and brought to the city for finishing touches before they are put on display.
The finishing touches are given in a huge godown on RV Road where artists,lost in their own world, either paint the idols or carry on with the welding work to make square metal crates for transporting the idols either from Bidadi or Hyderabad.
Capturing the mood
VV Puram, which is also famous for its street food, is today welcomed by the almighty himself. As we head towards RV Road from the busy Minerva junction looking for Ganapati idols, perhaps one of the busiest areas during the Ganesha festival, humongous idols of ‘Ganpati’ overshadow us.
If you manage to make your way through the crowded footpath populated by almost every size, colour and theme of Ganesha, you are led to a tiny shop owned by Srinivasa, which is again hidden behind the idols they produce.
Not just idols, the street is filled with wholesalers who have come from as far as Hoskote and customers who are seen constantly haggling for a discount.
When quizzed about how profitable this venture is, Srinivasa retorts, “I don’t do this for profit anymore. I treat this as a service to Lord Ganesha and with this ‘business’ I have provided jobs to more than 150 people. With whatever money I have made, I have built a temple near Chintamani and a waterhole dug up near Anekal for wandering elephants.”
Though he laments about the fact that they have never been recognised by the government he adds, “Space is a problem and labour too. There is no place to keep all the idols and we find it hard to source artisans or sales guys from Karnataka.
Even if they join us, they leave us after sometime. I pay the sales boys around `200-250 for each day and its difficult to run a family with that kind of money.”
The salesmen and artisans employed by him come from places like Tamilnadu, Mumbai, Pune and Solapur. He also boasts of well-known customers like Master Hirannaiah, politician DK Shivakumar, Kannada actor Vijay, Police Commissioner B.G. Jyothi Prakash Mirji along with some of the city’s leading lawyers, to name a few.