Sunday, September 27, 2015

Shaping the Niraakaar

Today is Anant Chaturdashi, the last day of Ganeshotsav. All mammoth Ganpati idols in the city will be  immersed in Arabian Sea by tonight. The string of ten day festivities will come to sudden conclusion, and like every year, devotees will ask Ganpati Bappa to arrive a bit more earlier next year... Pudhchya varshi lawkar yaa...!!

There's something endearing about a God whose primary identity is that of a son. And that's how the cherubic, pot bellied personality of Ganesha with baby fat all over has got affixed permanently into public psyche. It's a deity that comfortably melds into animation as Bal Ganesha and children enjoy his role in folk tales as much as elders enjoy his various avataars at Ganeshotsav pandals every year.

It may be surprising for some to learn that the most famous Ganpati of Mumbai, Lalbaugcha Raja, has assumed several disguises since His debut. The Lord has been presented in the form of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and also Gandhiji at one point of time. These avataars resembled the muses much more than traditional Ganesha Himself. It's all the more worthy of appreciation that Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal, organizers of Lalbaugcha Raja, were progressive enough in their vision to have allowed such representations to be installed during the first fifty years since the mandal's inception way back in conservative 1930s. 

However, as the years went by and this idol began gaining popularity, particularly as a faith center for votive, it may have become imperative to freeze a definite form for Lalbaugcha Raja that devotees could meditate upon. Perhaps as a result, since the late 80's, the mandal shed its flexibility and settled for a permanent design of this idol as we see it today. In 2011, they went a step further by securing global copyright over the use of its name. The sculptor family that has traditionally been commissioned to create Lalbaugcha Raja, too applied for a patent over its most popular form in the very same year.

We won't get into challenging the propriety of such patents from devotional perspective. It's more a matter of business, politics, branding and intellectual property than of faith, that 'God' needs to be given form and that a particular form requires to be frozen as the only appropriate one to be worshiped. 

Else we look at the humongous pyramids of Egypt and feel humbled by them. We look at entire epics written on a single grain of rice and marvel at the ingenuity of its creator. Whenever human effort has surpassed and excelled beyond a certain common denominator, we feel the same sentiment towards it as we feel towards the concept called 'God'. Then the size and shape of the form ceases to matter. We see God in Perfection, wherever it is. It could be a huge pyramid or a tiny little grain... and, it could as well be a figure some ancient artist conceptualized in the name of God several millennia back. We know God when we see one.

Blogger Bikramjit of Me and My Random Thoughts responded to the previous blog post by Aamrapali.  "I have a question... how do we know this is how Gods looked like... the impressions are of that person who first drew and then everyone took the idea from that", he commented. This was my humble attempt to answer the same.... Bikram, Many thanks for writing! Do keep in touch.

1 comment:

Bikram said...

ah yes i liked the line , we know God when we see one .. true so true..

I am surprised to read that at one stage Nehru and Gandhi were compared , this I don't believe in .. at all , for in my eyes I find these two characters as traitors of the nation .. but then that is a different situation.

Thank you sir for writing a whole post as a response .. much appreciated



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