Category Archives: Ganesh Festival in Karnataka

Ganesha, an artist’s muse

In the 1800s, Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar of Mysore (now Mysuru), a great patron of art and culture, compiled a book containing depictions of gods and goddesses, mythological beings and yoga asanas. The book called the Sritattvanidhi — The Illustrious Treasure of Realities, is aptly named for it truly is a treasure. The treatise is particularly famous for its delineation of the 32 forms of Ganapati, which are given in a section of the book called the Shivanidhi. Each beautiful illustration carries with it a shloka from the Mudgala Purana, a text devoted to Ganesha.

Piety and aesthetics
The book provided a fillip to the Mysore style of painting and served almost to codify the colours, forms and techniques used in this style. Along with depictions of other gods and goddesses shown in the book, these 32 forms of Ganesha also became, and still remain, a popular subject in traditional Mysore paintings.

At the Srikanteshwara Temple in Nanjangud, you can see all 32 forms from the Srititattvanidhi in sculpture form. This temple began as a small shrine in the Ganga period in the 9th century. Over the years, successive rulers added structures to the temple. Now it is one of Karnataka’s largest and most important temples. In the 1800s, Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar renovated and made some additions to the Temple, some of which have become part of the Temple’s claims to fame. The Temple’s spacious courtyard is enclosed by walls that are 12 feet high. All along the top of the wall are brick-and-mortar niches housing beautifully detailed stucco images of gods and goddesses, each with their names inscribed below in Kannada. The niches along the northern wall enshrine the various forms of Ganesha. Seeing the various stucco Ganeshas one after the other — Dhundiganapati, Shaktiganapati, Lakshmiganapati, Rinamochanaganapati and on and on — I felt it was the closest I would ever come to reading Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar’s magnum opus!

Talk about the Wodeyars and the elephant-headed god and one cannot but mention the Atmavilasa Ganapati. Visitors to the Mysore Palace cannot fail to notice this huge idol prominently placed in one of the halls. There is a reason it has been given the pride of place — In 1897, when an accidental fire destroyed the old palace, this idol was one of the few things to remain unscathed by the inferno. This is why when it was placed in the new palace, a special tower was built over it, marking out the Atmavilas Ganapati as particularly sacred. Traditionally, Mysore Dasara celebrations are kicked off with pujas being offered to this deity. R G Singh, of the Mysore-based art foundation Ramsons Kala Pratishthana, informs that the Atmavilas Ganesha is made of mud and was made by artisans from the Chitragar community in Mysore. Interestingly, the idol’s stomach is reputed to be filled with 450 sacred shaligramas.

Another famous Ganapati in Mysuru is the red-hued idol in the Jaganmohan Palace. Made with a frame of bamboo and covered with papier mache and cloth, it is comparable in appearance to the one in the main palace.

Shades of divinity
The large, red-hued Mysore Ganeshas call to mind another famous Ganesha, this time from Gulur, near Tumakuru, famed for its month-long worship of the remover of obstacles. Legend ascribes the beginnings of this tradition to a time when a poor priest in the village sought help from the venerable Sage Agastya to resolve some of the intractable problems in his life. Agastya bade the priest bring some clay from the nearby Gulur Lake and then fashioned an idol of Ganesha from it. Together, they worshipped this idol for 30 days, after which the priest’s difficulties were resolved. And so began the tradition of Ganesha celebrations. The process begins on Ganesha Chaturthi, when clay is brought from the Gulur Lake. Artisans mix the clay with coir and begin work on making the 8-9 feet high idol. The idol is still coloured with natural pigments. Rakesh A Gulur, an engineer, says, “It gives the idol an attractive pinkish-red hue.” The worship of this idol begins on Deepavali day and continues for more than a month, ending in a jatre in December when the idol is taken around in a procession.

Where the Gulur Ganesha is painstakingly and joyously remade every year, another set of very famous Ganesha idols are two that have stood the test of time — the two monolithic Ganeshas fashioned 500 years ago in Hampi. Historians Anna Dallipiccola and Anila Verghese rate the 2.4 m high four-armed Sasivekalu Ganesha as among the best specimens of Vijayanagar sculpture, for its fine carvings on the idol. Though slightly damaged — the trunk and lower left hand are broken — the skill of the unknown artisans who worked on this image is such that the god still projects an endearing persona which does not detract from his numinosity. Nearby is the Kadlekalu Ganesha, more imposing because of its larger height of 4.5 m but less finely finished than the Sasivekalu Ganesha.

India’s earliest sculpture of Ganesha dates to about 1st century AD and was found in Gokarna, according to art historian R H Kulkarni, principal of Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath. But, as he points out, early Ganeshas differed from those of today. For example, they were two-armed, did not have a yajnopavita (sacred thread), nor a snake around the belly. One representation from the 6th century that many of us have seen is in Badami, where Ganesha is shown dancing next to his father doing the tandava. There is no snake, nor even the characteristic pot-belly of later depictions, but he does have that lovable charm that we associate with Ganesha.

Today, of course, India’s favourite god graces dashboards in cars, doubles up as pen stands, key chains, earrings, bookends and sundry other items, and is also a collectible item, when he is shown dancing, sitting, standing, reclining, reading, relaxing and more. As R G Singh of Mysuru notes drily, the modern Ganesha seems definitely animation-influenced, “with very large ears and very stylised eyes.” In spite of this, present day idol makers claim that they draw inspiration from traditional designs. Manjunath Hiremath, an idol maker in Dharwad, says that he refers to traditional designs while making idols.

But whatever variations or permutations his depictions take, this elephant-headed bestower of prosperity, this remover of obstacles, this god of auspicious beginnings remains popular across all castes and cults.


9 good places to witness Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in India

_MG_5677Ganesh Chaturthi is round the corner and there are quite a few places to head to for those who want to take a small break and soak in the festivities.
Travel portal HolidayIQ put out a list of destinations one could visit to join in the celebrations. Here’s the list:

1. Ganapatipule

The Temple of Ganapatipule becomes the centre of grand activity for the five days celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi when villagers and pilgrims join actively in a procession honouring Ganapati. A taller idol is placed in an ornate palanquin and carried on the shoulders of the devotees through the village accompanied by a priest and a drummer. The idol in the sanctum is placed in a way that also makes it visible. The Swayambhu Ganapati Temple is one of the most famous pilgrimage centres.

Abhay Shinde, a travel enthusiastic shares, “Good for family trip but not more than 2 days. Booking in advance has to be done for weekends and in case of Ganesh Chaturthi etc. A totally relaxing place by the sea and the road connecting Ganapatipule to Ratnagiri is totally awesome to drive since you drive the entire stretch of about 25 kms parallel to sea.”

2. Pune

Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated with pomp and gaiety, especially in Pune. Pune has its own tradition of Ganesh Festival. Head to Kasbapeth to have a darshan of Kasba Ganpati, the patron deity of Pune. Kasba Ganpati leads the immersion procession on the last day of the festivities. Saras Baug is another must visit temple in Pune. Shreemant Dagduseth Halwai Ganpati is another popular Ganesha shrine in Pune that is a must visit during Ganesh utsav. Every Punekar is sure to understand the magic of Ganesh Chaturthi, at the Dagdu Sheth temple.

The most famous attraction of the Pune is the Shreemant Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati Mandir. Beautifully designed and well constructed with good security system.

3. Mumbai – Siddhivinayak, Titwala

Mumbai becomes very lively and enthusiastic during the festival with devotional songs, dances and drum beats. Pandals across Mumbai are known to thematically represent the current social issues that the city faces through tableaux, paintings and decorations. While you are in Mumbai, head to the Goud Saraswat Brahmin (GSB) Samiti Mandal at Wadala to have a darshan of the richest Ganesha in Mumbai. Your trip would be incomplete without a visit to Lalbaughcha Raja. Unlike other Ganeshas, Lalbaugcha Raja is not a shrine but a community organised festival. Huge crowds come to visit Lord Ganesha and at times it takes over 20 hours to reach the idol.The tallest Ganesha and the richest in the world is kept at the GSB Seva Mandal Tentat Krida Mandir.

4. Diveagar

The main festivals celebrated in Diveagar are Janmashtami and Ganesha Chaturthi. Must visit is the Suvarna Ganesh Temple that houses a pure gold idol of Lord Ganesha. This is a 300-year old temple and a must visit if you are history enthusiast.

5. Bengaluru

Head to popular Ganesh temples – Panchamukha Heramba Ganapati Temple, Shri Jambu Ganapati Temple and Ananthanagar Ganapati Temple. Catch the immersion spectacle at Sankey Tank and Ulsoor Lake.

6. Goa

Locals in Margao and Panjim, among other places in Goa organise traditional pujas. What’s unique to Goa is the use of instruments like Shamel and Ghumot, played during processions.

HolidayIQ Traveller Tejash Pandya shares, “Goa is nice and crowded, also good decoration across Goa during festivals.”

7. Hyderabad

Here’s some trivia. One of the largest Ganesh idols in the world is set up at Khairtabad in Hyderabad. The construction of the idol takes anywhere between 3 to 4 months. If you are in Hyderabad on the 11th day of the festival, head right to Hussain Sagar Lake to watch procession and final ‘visarjan’.

8. Thiruvananthapuram

Follow the procession from the Ganapati Temple to Shanghumukham Beach and you’ll be in awe. Local artists and dancers with a variety of instruments dance throughout the way till the idol is immersed in the sea. Thiruvananthapuram is one of the few places that makes eco-friendly Ganesh idols using clay and milk.

9. Chennai

Celebrations in Chennai might not be on the same scale as Mumbai, but there are a treat to watch nevertheless. Across Chennai, locals set up Ganesh statues and the celebrations and at Marina Beach are a must-see.

The best idol minds, all the way from Bengal

Ganesh idols in various guises — there’s Bal Ganesh, and one, with its trunk morphing into a dove, symbolising peace — are parked at Chandrashekar Pal’s workshop off Nandidurg Road, waiting for a final dash of colour and decoration.

Mr. Pal (41), an idol-maker from West Bengal, comes to Bangalore in time to make and sell idols for Ganesha Chaturthi, Durga puja, Kali puja, Vishwakarma puja, Lakshmi puja and Saraswati puja.

Having done this for the last 22 years, he’s fluent in Kannada, easily telling off the curious children who sneak into his workspace to touch Ganesh’s shiny dhoti and lotus-shaped eyes — “Beda, beda! Allinda ne nodi!


Mr. Pal arrived in Bangalore four months ago with 13 idol-makers and a cook to begin preparations for the festival. “I spend seven months here. I go back for all the important festivals,” he says, busy giving finishing touches to Ganesha idols.

He says he sells close to 300 Ganesh idols in the city, and about 40 Durga idols during the festival.

His idols make their way to Mysore, KGF, Mandya, Hassan and even Madurai in Tamil Nadu. “This year we are making a 20-ft-tall Durga idol [to be sent to] KGF and we are also transporting a 10-ft-tall Sai Baba idol to Mysore, where the Ganesh festival organisers are devotees of Sai Baba.”

Tarun Paul (53), who has been the idol-maker for Bangalore’s Bengalee Association for 40 years, began making Ganesh idols in 1984. His father, Sudhir Paul (89), started making idols in Bangalore in 1971. They too come from West Bengal during festival season. “Locals here were impressed with our work and asked us to make a couple of idols in 1984, since then the numbers have only risen,” says Mr. Tarun, who has a workshop at Cox Town.


Mr. Pal says the artisans bring clay from the banks of the Ganga and other raw materials, including watercolour and fabric, from West Bengal. “The cost has gone up this year for us especially because of the hike in petrol prices. We are charging about 2–4 per cent more on the idols this time.” This, even as budgets of organisers have been slashed, he says.

A 5-ft Ganesh idol costs about Rs. 4,000. And, a complete set of basic idols for Durga puja, comprising Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh, Kartik and in some cases, Mahishasura, costs about Rs. 30,000.


However, demand for hand-crafted idols is declining, Mr. Pal rues. “Many people prefer plaster of Paris idols. We can offer novelty and tradition when it comes to idols and no one can beat us at that.”

The focus of Durga Puja here is different from that in West Bengal, Mr. Tarun says. “In Kolkata, organisers spend up to Rs. 2 lakh on Durga idols, but here, the cultural programmes and food take up most of the budget and organisers are willing to spend about Rs. 25,000 on Durga idols.”

Their turnover during the festival season is more or less the same in Bangalore as in West Bengal. “If not for us, how will probashi (non-resident) Bengalis celebrate their most important festival?” he asks.


Ganesha idols to cost more this year in Belgaum

This year, you will have to pay more for Ganesha idols. A hike in the price of paint and other materials will work out to a rise of 15-20% in the price of an idol.

In Belgaum, where Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in a grand manner, people are not very concerned about booking ahead for their idols. Though there’s a hike in rates, and idols could get more expensive as the festival comes closer, there aren’t many bookings.

The height of the idols range from 1ft to 12ft. People who keep the idol at home take the small ones and community pandal organizers go for the 6-7 ft idols, which cost nearly Rs 12,000.

Ruturaj G Kakade of Uppargalli in Kasbag, who’s been in this profession for the past 15 years, said, “We’ve already got many orders for this year. Every year, the demand keeps increasing, there’s a nearly 10-15% increase in demand over last year. Initially, I decided to prepare just 10 6ft Ganesha idols, but due to demand from the public, I’m now making 14 to 15 idols measuring 6-7ft.

Prices have also increased due to a hike in transportation and other material to prepare Ganesha idols. We have orders for both Plaster of Paris and also clay idols, added Ruturaj. Ganesh Chaturthi is on September 9.


Feminine touch lends elegance to Lord Ganesha idols

Artsites who make Lord Ganesha idols are usually men but the idols made by the Ponarkar family in Hubli get an elegant feminine touch. It is the women of the family who have been making Ganesha idols for the past several years and what distinguishes them from others is that they make eco-friendly earthen idols as against the regular POP ones.

There are more than 10 households belonging to the Ponarkar family in the city. Women of these families are adept at preparing idols of the Elephant God using clay and natural colours.

There is a huge demand for these idols with people from Belgaum, Shimogga, Gadag, Haveri and other parts of north Karnataka coming all the way to Hubli to place orders.

Women of Ponarkar family begin the auspicious work of making Ganesha idols soon after Ugadi. They get clay from Heggeri, Keshwapur and Gopankoppa for Rs 2,800-3,000 per kg. Each family will make about 300 idols, to be finished in about six months. Men of the family too extend a helping hand to women in the process.

Speaking to TOI, Priya Narayan Ponarkar of Hosur, said, “I have been making Ganesha idols for the past 15 years. Preparing idols out of clay is a laborious task when compared to POP idols. Every day we get on to idol making after completing the household chores. We spend nearly 6 to 8 hours per day in making idols. I make one or two idols in a day.” Priya’s household has prepared 200 idols this year and most of them have already been sold for Ganesh Chaturthi on Wednesday.

Nanda Ponarkar, who is involved in idol making for the past 20 years said she learnt the art from the elders in the family. With the help of her family members she has made 400 idols this season.


Here, Ganesha knows no barriers

Diwali celebrations usually know no religious boundaries as people of all communities join in bursting crackers and enjoying the sweets that accompany them.

But in this tiny hamlet of Korlahalli in Gadag district in Karnataka, Ganesh Chaturthi too has crossed all communal barriers. Not just the Hindus celebrate the festival here but also the Muslims.

Like the rest of the villagers, the Muslims too install a Ganesha idol after holding a grand procession and distribute free meals among villagers by collecting funds from the community.

The Muslims, who constitute 40 per cent of the population of over 3,000 in the village, build a pandal for installing the idol of Lord Ganesha, hold cultural programmes every night and recite a few lines from the Quran near the idol after the pooja.

On the fifth day, prayers are offered in the Islamic way for about two hours while the idol is immersed.

The Hindus offer them any help they may need to organise the celebration. In fact youth from both communities have formed a joint forum to celebrate Ganesha.

Returning the gesture, the Hindus also fast during Ramzan and are members of the local Muslim organisation.

The Muslims, for their part, readily work as office bearers of the local Hindu temple trust.

“We have been celebrating all festivals in our village to teach a lesson to those stoking communal hatred and have never witnessed any communal violence here.

We have always lived in harmony, celebrating both Ganesh Chathurthi and Ramzan together,” said a Muslim youth from the village, Chamansab Buketgar, who first began the tradition of celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi among Muslims by installing a Ganesha idol in his home.

The celebration at the time was confined to his family, but soon other Muslims from the village joined in and today they look forward to the festival as much as their Hindu friends.


Spiderman to Eega: Namma-style Ganeshas in Bangalore

As Ganesh Chaturthi draws closer, the markets are reverberating with the sounds of skilled idol makers giving the final, finishing touches to the lovable, elephant god which is visible on every alley and bylane, all through Vishveshpuram and a few other areas of Bangalore. We see tiny figurines to massive Ganesha idols measuring 25 feet high that are beautifully moulded in plaster of paris, decorated and depicted in various postures, colours and sizes.

Craftsmen who create Ganesha do not limit to only traditional idol making as they now take customised orders also. This year, eco-friendly Ganeshas are more in demand with the government and various NGOs spreading the need to switch over to images made from mud and natural dyes. Ganesha as Bala Gangadhar Tilak is the all time favourite of M Srinivas who has been selling Ganesha and Gowri idols on RV Road for the past 67 years. “It was Bal Gangadhar Tilak who popularised Ganesha festival during the freedom struggle. It is his day too and my favourite festival,” he says.

Although Ganesha idols comes out in different avatars every festival, this year’s flavour is Spiderman Ganesha and some have even depicted as Eega based on film star Sudeep’s hit movie. Apart from the traditional images, there are other types of Ganeshas dressed as Badagala (farmers surrounded by other farmers and cows). M Srinivas says, “Why should America only have a superhero. We want to show our heroes in the form of God. This time, we got an order to make Lord Ganesha as a Spiderman that hardly has a belly with short tusks.”


Gowri’s Ganesha to be the star attraction in Belgaum

While most of us have built sand castles, here is an artist who scoops fistfuls of wet sand and creates beautiful sculptures. An eco-friendly Ganesha, moulded by Mysore-based sand artist Gowri MN, will be the special attraction during the Ganesha festival in Belgaum. She is busy giving finishing touches to her creation.

The Ganesha idol, 11ft tall, 20 ft wide and 25ft long, will be on show at Maratha Mandir premises for 13 days from September 18. Gowri has used three lorry loads o fsand to create the masterpiece.What made the city go in for this eco-Ganesha? Environment-related issues come to the fore every year during the festival, thanks to the chemical paints and plaster of Paris used in the idols. Environmentalists oppose immersion of such idols in water bodies. In order to create awareness among the people about eco-friendly idols, Belgaum-based organization Yash Events is introducing the sand Ganesha. Gowri, who is qualified with a diploma in mechanical engineering, has discovered her passion for the sand art just a year ago. And within this short period, she has received international recognition. She was the only woman artist who participated in the international sand art festival held at Konark, Orissa, in December 2011. During the 15-day festival, Gowri sculpted popular temples in sand and received accolades.Gowri told TOI: “I am like Ekalavya in sand art. I discovered this beautiful art online. The images I saw inspired me and I began looking up videos on the social media to understand the art better,” she says recalling how she learnt the techniques of sand art on her own. How does she go about it? She says she visualizes a picture and sculpts it in sand.

“The wet sand should be sculpted from top to bottom and the artist must be careful because one cannot go back to the top to make corrections. Sometimes sand sculptures crumble. A sand artist needs patience,” she says.Gowri was invited to participate in around eight events in the past one year across the country. She had sculpted Goddess Chamundeshwari during Mysore Dasara last year and had depicted the Mahabharata at the Lalbagh Republic Day flower show in Bangalore.

Ganesha idols made in Mangalore cross seas

Come Ganesh Chaturthi, this household in Mangalore will be buzzing with activities. They have been making eco-friendly Ganesha idols for devotees without charging a penny for the past 83 years.

Brothers Prabhakar Rao, Ramachandra Rao and Sudhakar Rao, took over the tradition from their late father Mohan Rao and make Ganesha idols without using moulds, oil paints, plaster of Paris or any other chemical substances .

Raos start accepting the orders from the auspicious day of Chitra Nakshatra, the birth star of Lord Ganesha, which comes about two months before the Ganesh Chaturthi. The work commences as and when devotees bring peeta (wooden seat) for the idol. The clay with which idols are made is brought from Sujirkars Tile Factory. “We use straw and clay to make idols and instead of oil paints, we use lead-free colours that do not contaminate water. The size of Ganseha idol varies between one foot and 12 feet,” said Prabhakar Rao. The family makes the idols at their home, Sri Ganesh.

The family does not charge their customers. However, they accept a Dakshine that the customers give them with ‘phala-thamboola’ (coconut -beetle nut leaves). “For us it is not a business. We are just continuing the tradition handed over to us by our father. All of us have our own business. We do not fix a price for Ganesha idols. We accept whatever devotees give us, happily,” says Ramachandra Rao.

This year the family has received 194 orders including one each from the UK and the US.

Mulky Panduranga Sharma, a member of Santhana Dharma Kendra Association, San Jose, California has been taking Ganesh idols made by the Raos to the US for the past 18 years. The association celebrates the festival for five days and nearly 500 devotees attend it.

For Dr Srisha Shenoy, Ganesh Chaturthi is not complete without the idols made at Sri Ganesh.

He keeps the idols at Wrexham Memorial Hall in UK during Ganesh Chaturthi.


‘Hubli Ka Raja’ to be the tallest Ganesha idol in state

The commercial city, which is also famous for grandeur of Ganesha festival, is all set to install ‘Hubli Ka Raja,’ a 23-foot Ganesha idol believed to be tallest in the state, for this years’ festival.

‘Hubli Ka Raja’ resembles Lalbagh Ganesha of Mumbai — sitting in style on throne and blessing devotees.

With just over a week left to greet Ganesha in households, members of the Dajiban Peth Gajananotsava Samiti are eager to install the ‘tallest’ Ganesha idol.

Artists from a tiny village called Rendal near Ichalakaranji in the neighbouring Maharashtra have been making the idol for two months, adopting traditional methods.

The artistes use grass, limestone and plaster of paris among other things to make the idol.

The family of Ganapatrao Kumbar which is into the profession of making idols is spread across Hubli, Belgaum, Ichalakaranji, Chikkodi, Pune, Kolhapur and Karad in the region.

“The team makes as many as 25 idols every year. ‘Hubli Ka Raja’ is the tallest among all of them,” says Milind Kumbar, an artist, who has been making Ganesha idols for years.

The Dajiban Peth Gajananotsava Samiti, which has been celebrating the Ganesha festival for 37 years, has been installing the tallest Ganesha idols of the city since 2008. “The height of the Ganesha installed by the Samiti last year was 21 feet. However, in order to avoid problems during immersion, the height is restricted to 23 feet.This time around `3.50 lakh is being spent for making the giant idol.

The number of visitors is increasing every year, says Samiti’s president Shyam Pawar. People offer cash and jewellery during darshan. Silver jewellery collected so far weighs around 20 kg, say Samiti members



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