Immortalising a mere mix of clay – Ganpati Bappa in the making!

Ganpati Bappa Morya… Mangalmurti Morya…

The Lord Ganpati or Ganeshji as he is fondly called by his devout followers, comes to our homes once annually.  Lord Ganesha, son of Shiva and Parvati, is the Hindu God of wisdom and prosperity and is traditionally invoked at the beginning of any new venture or new travel.

Today on Ganesh Chaturthi, the Hindu festival celebrating the birth of Ganeshji in His present form with the head of an elephant we take you on an unique photographic journey from the streets of Delhi. Experience virtually the journey undertaken by beautifully decorated and artistic clay Ganesha models made by skilled artisans of Delhi on their way to the ‘Prayer rooms’ of well decorated homes and specially erected temporary tented structures ‘Mandaps and Pandals’ in many areas of Delhi.

Ganesh Idols
Ganesh Idols ready for journey to our homes, depict Lord Ganesh in various poses. Size of statues vary from half-a-feet to over 70+ feet in height. Although in Delhi, artisans of Yamuna Pushta area near Akshardham usually make idols of max. 8-10 feet

Puran Singh who is from Rajasthan, spends almost 5 months in Delhi starting from early-August when he begins making idols of Lord Ganesha and of various Gods like Saraswati, Lakshmi, Vishwakarma. He says that it is the western states of India, Maharashtra and Gujarat where the Ganesh Idols are built in massive sizes going beyond the 70+ feet mark. In Delhi as he tells us, the largest he has seen is 15 feet made by one of his competitors 2 years back. This year his personal best is just a little over 8 feet. But he hopes one day he will also make a 20 footer!!! Only if a Ganesh Puja Committee agency can pay him to do so, he says sadly.

HOW IT ALL BEGINS: Plaster of Paris, riverbed soil and shredded coconut coir are mixed together with water to make a semi-liquid paste

The paste is then poured in rubber moulds which the Idol artists have saved from their previous year’s creations so as to get the structure with finer details of ornaments and postures in which that particular idol will be. Once the idols start drying up, the rubber moulds can be removed and the idol is left to be dried in the sun.

WHY GOD MADE RUBBER TREES: Puran Singh shows off a rubber mould from the outside while his grandson on right shows another mould inside-out, where you see intricate patterns of idol decorations like jewellery and facial features etc.

That was the easy part!!

Powerless Gods: The idols do not have hands since the moulds do not support such a complete kind of creating idols. So it is all done by hand.
EVEN THE GODS ARE POWERLESS TODAY: The idols do not have hands since the moulds do not support such a complete creation of the idols. Protruding features of any idol like Ganesha’s trunk and the hands are all made out of separate moulds and then each hand/trunk joined painstakingly by hand.
SAATHI HAATH BADHANA: My hands joined with Your Hands. Will you give me some of your power? Few of your blessings?

This is followed by another round of drying out the idols in the open sun.

Idol Making 20132
AND WE GET THE SUN TAN: The dried out idols are sand-papered to smoothen out the surfaces and the cracks which formed while being dried are filled with the same paste. Once it is dry again, a solution of distemper paint and water-soluble adhesive is applied all over the idols to firm up the idol.

Color coding of the different parts of the Lord’s idol begins as you see on the right-hand picture above, done by the head of artisans, in this case Puran Singh. His family of 10 members is working with him for the past 4 weeks on churning out hundreds of small and big Ganesha idols.

WHEN GODS AND MEN STOOD SHOULDER TO SHOULDER: The Gods Wait For Their Journey at a DTC Bus Stand
Ganesh Idol Making
WORK-IN-PROGRESS: Ganesh Idols having being colored with ‘body-colored’ paint
Idol Making 2013
The hollow idols help keep the weight low. Puran’s grandson plays with one of the rubber moulds…
READYING FOR THE COLOURS: Puran’s 2 daughters help in brushing away bits of accidentally formed dust globules/dried out paint/distemper solution
PYAAR SE RANG DEENI….Puran’s daughter adds color, love and devotion
And on the 4th day of creation God said 'Let there be Light and Glitter'
And on the 4th day of creation God said ‘LET THERE BE LIGHT & GLITTER’ !!!
START THEM YOUNG: The ‘Gems’ are stuck by the grandson of Puran. Please do not cry child labour! This was fun for the tiny tot as he let his randomness beautify the idols even more!
THE ‘VIGHNAHARTAA” LOVES HIS SWEETS: Modaks, a traditional Marathi droplet-shaped sweet, made of rice powder covering stuffed with coconut and jaggery mixture is very popular in West India. But we in Delhi say it with Besan or Motichoor ke Ladoo!!
The Lord’s Mobile Connection: Yes the mob number is the identifier of who has booked this particular Idol. Simple. WHAT AN IDEA SIRJI!!!
The Lord’s Message to us all: LIFE IS MORE THAN JUST A RACE!!!

Historical Note:  Regular pujas and 10 to 21 days long Ganesh Mahotsav celebrations were started during Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja, the great Maratha ruler. to promote culture and nationalism, the festival was revived by Lokmanya Tilak (a freedom fighter) to spread the message of freedom struggle and to defy the British who had banned public assemblies. The festival gave the Indians a feeling of unity and revived their patriotic spirit and faith. This public festival formed the background for political leaders who delivered speeches to inspire people against the Western rule.

Note: Ganesh Chaturthi and worshipping of the idols at homes and Pandals across the city/country continue for five, seven, or ten days. After 10 days the idols are immersed in water tanks/ sources of water like rivers/ seas. We hope to bring to you how Delhi gives a warm-sendoff to the ‘Lambodar’ also.

Till then cheers and Happy Ganesh Mahotsav.

May Lord Ganesh shower you with success in all your endeavours.

World Photography Day: When Trams Criss-crossed Old Delhi

Today is World Photography Day and while looking through my collection of pics clicked by me or collated over the years from various sources, this pic of Delhi from the LIFE Magazine Archives stopped me.

So let me see if I can transport you back in time, to just over a 100 years ago, in the streets of Shajahanabad!

Imagine a ride on the roads of Delhi in an electric, train-like, rickety, single carriage vehicle, which runs so slowly, yet surely on its circuit of iron tracks that you could alight or board the tram at any given point of time, if you had a certain level of minimum fitness! Imagine you gaze at the Red Fort passing by, at horse-drawn carts (Tongas) going their way making the characteristic ‘clip-clop’ noise carrying men and purdah-clad women with their families. The trees lining the central verge of Chandni Chowk pass by your window and Gurudwara Sis Ganj comes into view. The smells and sights of the Jalebis and Kachori-Aloo Sabzee permeates your senses. You are hard-pressed to find any motorised version of transport. And a drop in electricity voltage may just stop the tramcar in its tracks, that important appointment be damned!!! You get down and quickly order a plate of Samosas, and just at that moment the Tramcar Conductor rings the bell to let all know that the electricity is back. You rush to get onboard, the Samosa-vendor trailing you to receive his 1 or 2 Annas for the 2 Samosas and walks along the tram car chatting with you as he brings out the requisite paisas/annas to return back to you…and the Tram rolls on towards the Fatehpuri Masjid and you settle down for the slow-rocking journey to your ultimate destination, the Sadar Bazar.

The year was 1908 and the first Electric Trams were introduced by the English for the population of Chandni Chowk, Jama Masjid, Lal Kuan, Fatehpuri Masjid and Sadar Bazar areas, basically Delhi-6 (Pin Code 110006)

Tram in Delhi _Delhi By Foot

Did you know that Delhi had a robust Electric Tram service in Old Delhi till as late as 1963?
Pic courtesy: Life Magazine Arhives

Kolkata was the first city to get its own Tram Service, as the English were based at Fort Williams and Calcutta was the capital of the Empire. Bombay also had its Tram service before Delhi and both Calcutta and Bombay saw use of Horse-drawn Trams. But Delhi graduated directly to an electric version!!

For almost 55 yrs the trams continued in service of Dilliwallas on 15Kms of track around Delhi6 areas but were ultimately discontinued in the early 1960s due to rising costs of maintenance and to make way for faster means of transportation like motorised vehicles…

I look forward to such a leisurely Tram journey on the streets of Shajahanabad…Do you?

Dr Rajendra Prasad in a horse-drawn cart, but the road has the iron tracks on the road for the Tram Services of Old Delhi
Dr Rajendra Prasad in a horse-drawn cart, but the road has the iron tracks on the road for the Tram Services of Old Delhi