Category Archives: Ganesh Festival in Karnataka

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


For Mahouts & Kavadis, it’s business as usual on Ganesha Festival

By Kiran Kumar, Star of Mysore

Basavanna‘s ‘Work is worship’ philosophy is very much seen here among the tribals taking care of Dasara elephants camped in the City Palace premises ever since they arrived here on Aug. 8.

At a time when the entire city was celebrating Gowri-Ganesha festivities, the tribals comprising the Mahouts, Kavadis and their families were busy attending to elephants, caring and feeding them. These people are, however, humble enough to admit they are only the commonest of the people, doing their assigned duty. They also claim that they need not be seen only as children from the forests, as they too can understand everything going on around them.

When asked how they celebrated the festival, their answer was merely a laugh, while claiming that taking care of elephants was itself a big festival for them.

When further questioned whether they were happy only at this job, these children of the nature retorted saying that they prepared ‘Anna-Sambar’ and this itself was something special for them.

Vasantha, the mahout of Dasara elephant ‘Arjuna’, said that they celebrate Ganesha festival only if they were living in the forests. “We also bring Ganesha idols from nearby towns and carry the idol in a procession to our place, where the idol will be worshipped with devotion. The idol will be immersed in a river after 5-6 days and we always use colourless Ganapathi idols.”

However, Kavadi Manju points out that Ganapathi idols need not be necessarily brought from the town. Several tribal habitats (Haadis) themselves prepare clay Ganesha idols. These idols are not painted.

Mahout Vasanth and his wife Ambika say that they have been celebrating Ganesha festival since many years. But they can not celebrate it according to their traditions once they were out of the forest with the Dasara elephants. They visit the Ganapathi temple in the Palace premises for worshipping the Almighty along with their children Akash and Tarunya. As part of the festival, they buy new clothes for children, they say with a sense of fulfillment.

Although the couple do not prepare the trademark Obbattu and Payasa for the festival, they feel pretty satisfied making Uppittu and Kesari Baath, says Ambika.

The story is almost the same in other tribal households, when during the festival celebration, there will be a strict ban on consumption of alcohol and meat, she adds.

As for the children, work is worship for them also. The children take active part in giving oil bath to the elephants on festival day, besides grooming them.

They feed the elephants with sugarcane, jaggery, paddy, grass etc., much to the relish-ment of the pachyderms.

These children spend time involving themselves in clearing the dung, taking the jumbos for rehearsal etc. The festival day is not much different from other days, for which they have no regrets either, their only intention being the welfare of elephants.

The children also claim that unless the elephants are not looked after properly, there are chances of them attacking other elephants. As such, they cannot keep themselves away from the elephants for long, they say adding they cannot wear new clothes while taking care of elephants.

Pay Homage To Holy Ganesha At Bangalore’s One And Only Dodda Ganesha Temple

Quietly nestled in the picturesque environs of Basavanagudi lies one of Bangalores most venerated religious sites, the Dodda Ganesha Temple. Located next to the equally revered Dodda Basavana Gudi Bull Temple the shrine is also located close to famed Bugle Rock Park which features a water tank decorated with the motifs of prominent figures in Karnataka. Occupying a prime position on Bull Temple Road the Dodda Ganesha Temple is also one of the most popular landmarks in the Garden City of Bangalore
Attracting visitors from far and wide the holy site was converted into the sprawling temple with a monumental idol by Kempegowda I who was incidentally the founding father of Bangalore. Local folklore states that the monarch was strolling in the area in ancient times when he encountered several rocks and a particular boulder which had the likeness of Lord Ganesha etched on its surface. Kempegowda I then instructed his sculptors to convert the boulder into a larger-than-life idol of the deity carved out of a single stone slab.

Renowned for its sheer size and scale the massive idol measures a whopping 18 feet in height with an equally impressive width of 16 feet. Lord Ganesha who is also known as Satya Ganapthi and Shakthi Ganapathi is believed to dwell in this venerated locale which is frequented by many a devotee in search of solace and blessings. Locals believe that the idol in the temple is expanding on its right side. Bedazzled in many a decoration due to various ceremonies throughout the week the statue is perhaps best known for being bathed in 100kg of butter (or Benne Alankara) during festival time. The butter coated idol is undoubtedly one of the most unique sights in Bangalore with a whopping 100kg of Benne or butter used in a single coating. 

Pilgrims and visitors can visit the temple from 7 am to 12.30 in the afternoon while the temple reopens at 5.30pm before closing for the day at 8.30pm every day.


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