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.
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.
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.
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!!
” 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 .
” 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. “
” 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 ?
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 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 .”
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 ? “
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