Practically every street in Pen has a Ganpati Karkhana which are generally family run establishments
With a day remaining for the Ganpati festival, last minute preparations are on at Pen to pack off the last batch of Ganeshas. A happy send off awaits the idols as it would mark the beginning of the 10-day Ganesha festival. Ganesha is the presiding deity of Maharashtra and during the 10-days of the festival, cynosure of all eyes would be Ganeshas made in Pen.
According to rough estimates close to seven lakh idols were produced this year. Most of the idols will end up in the markets of Mumbai and Pune. Some would even be couriered to Dubai and US.
Most idols would end up in Mumbai or Pen, some would be sent to places like Dubai and US
Rows and rows of Ganeshas – from one-foot ones to lifesize idols – can be found in Pen. Looking at the huge idols, you realize it is no exaggeration that Ganesha is also called Gajanan or the one with the elephantine body. Though clay idols are also made, Plaster of Paris (POP) Ganeshas abound.
The potbellied god is more of a dandy at Pen. Dressed in peetambars (yellow dhotis) and sovals (red and purple dhotis), jewelry embellishing every available space and topped by a crown, the Ganeshas sit in majestic splendour as if waiting for the show to begin.
Their sizes may vary, their colors may differ but there is one thing in common — all of them radiate with beauty and energy. Another thing in common – all have trunks turned towards their right. Ganeshas with their trunk turned towards left are believed to augur good. Grihastas or householders prefer Ganeshas with trunk turned towards left as it ensures success. Ganesha with trunk turned towards right represents moksha, good for renouncing the world.
So huge is the demand for the Ganeshas that practically every street in Pen has a Ganpati Karkhana, as the Ganesha making units are called here. The Karkhanas or factories are more of a mom and pop establishments in which the entire family contributes.
Some make the Plaster of Paris (POP) solution that goes in the moulds, some make the colours, some apply the primary coat of paint and some ensure the idols dry properly after they are cast. However, only the experienced get to paint the finer details like the eyeballs. Each year preparations for manufacture of Ganeshas begins immediately after Anant Chaturdashi, the immersion night. Making of the Ganeshas begins on the auspicious occasion of Vijay Dashami.
The Pen-born Ganesha is coveted for its aesthetic appeal. There is a serenity and charm to the Ganeshas made here. Add to that the blend of colours and exquisite craftsmanship, the idols are a collectors’ item.
Clay idols are also made in Pen Plaster of Paris Ganeshas abound and is the preferred medium
Though celebrated across Maharashtra since time immemorial, Ganeshotsav became a public jamboree when Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak used the event to arouse national consciousness against the British. From the confines of individual homes, Ganeshas came out and took up residence at public pandals during their10-day earthly sojourn. However, credit for making Pen the capital of Ganesha manufacturing goes to one Bhikaji Krishna Deodhar. Facing a downturn in his family business of making pagdis, the Maharashtrian turban, Deodhar found a new occupation by switching to Ganapati idol making.
Earlier, clay was used to make the idols. However, the artisans faced severe handicap because of the unavailability of raw materials. Deliverance came from the most unexpected quarter. Boats that used to ply between Mumbai and Gujarat used to bring fine clay from Bhavnagar. It was this clay that became a medium for the creative expression of Pen’s craftsmen.
POP idols give a better finishing than the clay ones, assert the artisans
Though Plaster of Paris (POP) was introduced in 1940s for manufacturing toys, artisans didn’t take to the new medium. The impetus to use the new material came from another visual art. When Prabhat Film Company placed an order for supply of 500 bust size images of Sant Dnyaneshwar for their biopic of the saint, it acted as a trigger for the Ganesha manufacturing units in Pen.
Today, there are close to 700 Karkhanas in Pen and employs over 5,000 artisans. It also provides employment to scores indirectly.
POP is the preferred medium as the idols are easier to transport, less fragile and cheaper, it causes numerous environmental problems. POP leads to widespread water pollution, disrupts the pH balance of water bodies and endangers the marine life.
With increasing awareness about environmental issues more and more people are asking for idols made of natural clay. But the artisans do not seem to be much happy. POP idols give a better finishing than the clay ones, lament the artisans.
For now, the only pressing concern before the artisans of Pen is just to meet the deadline and send the last of the Ganeshas packing to their destinations. Once done, it will be celebration time after a year of hard labour.
Ganpati manufacturing is a year-long activity and preparations for next year’s Ganesha festival would begin on Dussehra