Rupesh Pawar releases a very special line of clothing every year and Gods hanker to wear his creations. A tailor from Lalbaug, Pawar’s divine clientele comprises the city’s most famous Ganeshas, including Lalbaugcha Raja.
He is among a select group of tailors who are called upon to create dresses for Ganesha idols of the famous pandals. He creates attires for nearly 50 big idols that range in size from 8 to 20 feet, and for about 30 small ones at homes.
But, his most important client is the famous Lalbaugcha Raja, which is over 75 years old. Though many famous designers have expressed a desire to clothe the city’s most famous Ganesha, the trust that hosts the pandal does not care for fancy clothes. They trust Pawar’s skills so much that for 18 years, he has been entrusted with the job of creating special sets of clothes for the idol during the 11-day festival.
While keeping the dresses simple, Pawar has introduced new features over time. This year, he has bought special rim from Surat to embellish the dhoti worn by the deity. “We had to bring the dhoti border from Surat because we do not get this kind of elaborate handmade designs in Mumbai,” said Pawar.
To ensure that the clothes are ready in time for the festival, Pawar begins work in August. He stitches the garments at his residence in Lalbaug and is helped by a team of four to five people. On the first day of the festival, the idol is dressed in pitambar or yellow dhoti, along with a stole and a kambar patta or waist belt. The dhoti alone needs 39 metres of cloth, the stole and waist belt are about six metres long, the equivalent of a saree’s length.
The idol wears a similar set of clothes every day. The dress is changed twice every day — once at 3am and again at 3pm. Twenty-three sets of clothes are required for 11 days of the festival. Apart from the clothing, the idol is also adorned with about seven to eight kilograms of gold.
A special room near the pandal is set aside to store the colourful attire. The room is out of bounds for everyone except senior mandal officials and Pawar who supervises each costume change of Lalbaugcha Raja.
Usually, Pawar charges between Rs2,000 and Rs2,500 to dress up idols less than eight feet tall. Clothes for taller idols cost between Rs3,500 and Rs4,500. However, he make clothes for Lalbaugcha Raja free of cost. “It is a big honour to dress up the king of Mumbai’s Ganeshas,” he said.
This year, between nine to 20 lakh people are expected to visit Lalbaugcha Raja and there is intense competition among devotees to donate garments.