Chat with an Artist: G D Bhat

I started a self project this year on making of Ganesh idols for the Ganesha chaturthi festival  in my state  Karnataka, India. I contacted many sources and started collecting information and captured  photos. But in the beginning  I was bit disappointed to see there were too many  molded Ganesh idols made out of plaster of paris  every where. I remember seeing  artists  building idols out of  clay by hand  while I was a kid. So now I changed my mission or improvised it  – Searching artists  who are making Ganesha idols by hand.

This is the man, G D Bhat

Easy way to start was from obviously Kumta, my native place .  Many told me  G D Bhat of Kekkar   is  the best in making the artistic  Ganesha idols in whole Uttarakannada district . Finally  I decided to visit his workshop before he paints the idols to capture the natural beauty of the idols. I was accompanied by my good friend Sudheer  and when I entered his workshop I realized it is  a school open stage house. He covered the open area  with some beetlenut leaf covers .Inside are  the  natural clay Ganesha idols   standing and G D Bhat busy with his handwork on the idols.

The crown details are at the best

Some idols were small but some were  10 feet tall! All were in a natural clay color . I was lost  in the beauty of the idols , the perfection in shape and the incredible details on them. The idols even in a semi finished stage looked calm and peaceful. I could   easily see the half-smile on the face of the Ganesha and the idols were full of character already.  The ratio of the hand to head to body was so perfect and the minute art work on the crown and the jewelleries  are just amazing.

" Even today I take very few orders and try to finish them with perfection"

I asked him ” How do you get so perfect ratios  between head, eyes  and other parts of the body  without even a sketch for reference?”  he just smiled!

This  is what  art is . Pure natural. Straight from heart. No planning. No sketch ! Just create!!

a few small Ganesha idols

But few are very big

” lot of people ( customers) come to me with picture of Ganesha and say they  want the idol like that.  Some requests are real funny. Like Ganesha  killing  Veerappan (To my foreign readers:  Veerappan was a notorious  criminal figure  once lived in Karnataka). I reject most of the such request and make  only the good ones  carrying some artistic values.” said   G  D Bhat.

When I asked him how did he start this then he told an interesting story .

Just look at the face, the expression just amazing! The ratios of hands to the body and the head is simply awesome!

” During the festival we used to buy  Ganesha idols as others do. One year  the idol maker could not keep his promise and did not deliver the idol. So my brother decided to make a Ganesha idol our self  for the family. I used to watch my brother making idols but never attempt at all. One day when my brother was not at home I tried my hands and finished one idol. My brother came back and saw what I have done,  he told to me  ” from today you will make the idols not me ”   from then onwards I started making Ganesha idols . First it was for our home and for some neighbors . Then relatives , village people everybody wanted idols done from me. I never looked back. “

Making of the art

” Even today I take very few orders and try to  finish them with perfection”

I am sure there are many artists like these in India who are rich in  art but  are ignored. Nowadays parents push their kids to singing, dancing  and follow by the principles of the reality shows .  Parents discourage their kid when he or she wants to get their hands dirty in the mud or sand posing the health issues or cleanliness issues. So I keep  thinking  how this culture or art  will be carried to next generation or will it ever  be ?

He looked like a sage to me

I asked G D Bhat what might be the future of this art ? And his answer was really frightening!

He said ”  I am not sure on myself that I will be  practicing this art  after 5 years from now.  Today every one wants fast solution. Nobody wants to wait for one  month. Nobody even cares about the art. A molded Ganesha idol sell more and comes at  less cost!  Today I am not doing this for money. I do it for self-satisfaction. I enjoy the result  what I see after one month out of this ball of clay ( showing the a RAW ball of clay in the corner) “

I also asked is there any youngsters learning this art  but  he told me not many. According to him many show interests early but once they understand the need of  patience required in this art they disappear.

By that time he got some visitors. There were few school kids also but one kid out them  seemed very interested .

This is the kid I was talking

” This kid is very interested in this .   Every day after  schools he  comes straight away here and helps with my work. He can come good if he keep doing this .”

" I am not sure on myself that I will be practicing this art after 5 years from now. Today every one wants fast solution. Nobody wants to wait for one month. Nobody even cares about the art. A molded Ganesha idol sell more and comes at less cost! Today I am not doing this for money. I do it for self satisfaction. I enjoy the result what I see after one month out of this ball of clay"

Lights started fading  and I had to stop my photography. It was an amazing experience to see myself  in front of such a masterpiece work. I decided to come next year when the idols are color painted by G D Bhat. We thanked him and  left the place.

Sudheer was riding the bike fast to reach home as early as possible but my mind  kept thinking only about the boy I saw.

” Can he ? Can his parents encourage him ? “

The artist's clay balls on left!

This is an ongoing project of mine and so if you know anybody making Ganesha idols by hand using natural clay please email me at dmhmaneer(at) gmail.com . I will be happy to interview them and capture photos.

My other ” Chat with an artist”  articles

Chat with an Artist: M V Hegde 

Chat with an artist: Omkar Havaldar

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15 responses to “Chat with an Artist: G D Bhat

  1. Hi Dinesh. It is a good post and I admire the work you are doing. Just a thought on another project that you may do… If you can (i.e. if it isn’t too late already this year), I think, it might be good if you could document the entire process in a photography series — I mean from start to finish, right from the initial framework (I suppose using wood, hay and rope), the clay model, then the base paint, actual paint, dressing and ornamentation. It will give a very nice perspective on what actually it takes to make the idols.

  2. Hi Dinesh,

    Nice article with very good pics, in your own way you are giving exposure to many unsung talented artistes and tradition. Thanks

  3. Dear Dinesh Hegde,

    An excellent article has been written by you. First of all of all I need to
    appreciate your job on this. Please try to post it in a famous News Paper or in a Dedicated book as it should be popular & it reaches to the every human mind. All should know about Mr. G. D. Bhat’s art. Its a amazing moment which i had along with him for few days. I am also planing to write an article on him but in different view. Whatever the information you have provided in this article is really noticeable. We need to bring out all such kind of Legends to global notice from the gloom vicinity.

    Thanks & Regards,
    Vinayak Bhagwat.

  4. great work done here. like Indranil Sinharoy said, it would be great to follow the process from beginning to the end. kind regards, moyo

  5. Thanks for introducing an unknown artist… I liked one of the small idols (Ganesha on a conch shell) very much. It would be wonderful if such works of art were available easily and not only during/ for Ganesh Chaturthi…

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