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Now, US firm will make Ganesha idols

After the Chinese, American gift and collectible major Lenox begins manufacture of idols of Lord Ganesha.

india Updated: Dec 21, 2006 11:57 IST

After the Chinese, US gift and collectible major Lenox has begun manufacturing idols of popular Hindu god Ganesha after being convinced by an Indian American of their huge market potential.

Simmi Chopra, who sells Lenox products at her collectibles shop outside Disney World in Florida, approached the company to think beyond Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to Hindu deities like Ganesha, Durga and Lakshmi.

But persuading Lenox executives in Pennsylvania to craft Ganesha wasn't easy. Lenox's collectibles are typically high-volume versions of recognizable characters created by Disney or Universal Studios.

Chopra, a Sikh by religion, hopes to make Hindu gods and goddesses better known in the US, according to the Orlando Sentinel newspaper.

"When Simmi came to us, we didn't know if we wanted to do that," said Dennis Wood, Lenox vice president (sales). "But ... she convinced us she could market this to her faith market."

Once the company agreed, making the 15-inch-tall, 12-inch-wide, 24-karat-gold Lord Ganesha proved to be an uphill task.

"The process itself was an extraordinary challenge," Wood admitted.

Complexities such as a tiny mouse that serves as Ganesha's companion and the minute desserts in his hand were difficult to mould in Lenox quality.

According to Chopra, it took three years to complete the project. Multiple moulds were tried and trashed along the way.

The first piece rolled out in June, and Chopra donated it to a Hindu temple in Greater Orlando, Casselberry.

The second came with a $2,000 price tag. In all, 1,000 limited-edition pieces of Ganesha were manufactured and nearly all of them have been sold.

Excited by the response, Chopra is now working on the second piece in the line of Hindu-themed sculptures - the sacred symbol 'Om' - due to be out early next year.

"We want to try to place this in every house," Chopra said.

The idol of goddess Durga, representing female energy, is scheduled to be released in spring. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is likely to be out next fall.

Lenox, established in 1889, has created gifts, tableware and collectibles for many US presidents and dignitaries. The company's USP is that it guarantees satisfaction - "You don't like it, bring it back."

Chinese-made Hindu gods have already become a major draw in the Indian market, particularly during major festivals like Diwali.