Bob Marley, Che Guevara, Marilyn Monroe, the gods of popular imagination have competition from a real god — Shiva. The charismatic god, part of the original Hindu trinity and associated with weed, sex and dance, is the ‘real rockstar’ for an increasing number of youngsters today, adorning their tees and the walls of their rooms.
It’s fuelling the business of a chain of small, hole-in-the-wall shops in Delhi’s Paharganj area — the biggest centre of god merchandise. Here you’ll get everything from posters to t-shirts (Rs 90-130) and bags with pictures of most gods and goddesses of the Indian pantheon.
Sonu, the owner of one such, deals in hand-painted posters. He has a huge variety of them, in batik and velvet, but his speciality are those that change under UV light. Shiva is the favourite with Indians, he’s found, while Ganesha is for Westerners and Buddha is universal. “Shivji ki toh baat hi aur hai. Bachche south Dilli se zyada aate hain. (Shiva is in a different league altogether. It’s kids from south Delhi who come more.)” Sonu’s got Shiva in every mood, including lifesize portraits with ‘Boom Shankar’ written on top. But it’s the dancing Shiva and Ganesha surrounded by speakers that are his bestsellers.
Amit Aggarwal, who owns a similar shop nearby, says, “There was always a demand but I’ve seen a renewed interest lately. Ganesha is everyone’s favourite, then Shiva; many people like Krishna too.” At Janpath market’s S. Paul and Bros, Ganesha tees jostle for space with tees with popular slogans. Rajiv Kharbanda, the shopowner, says, “Ganesha never goes out of fashion. Foreigners, in particular, are a lot more aware these days.”
It’s not just t-shirts and posters. ‘Boom Shankar’ and ‘Chill Om’ have all but replaced ‘wassup’ and ‘peace mate’ in the popular lingo of youngsters.
Shiva also has a following among musicians with DJs and bands calling themselves Shiva and Tatva Kundalini. Delhi-based band Radius even had a song called ‘Om Namoh Shivay’. Chintan Kalra, bassist for Parikrama says, “I don’t know if I can speak for everyone, but yes, this era definitely belongs to Shiva.” Parikrama vocalist Nitin Malik, a Shiva bhakt who collects Shivlings from all over, adds, “He is the real rockstar.”
Cut to a jam session in the city, where an elegant 30-something is describing her ‘eligible friend’ — it’s a discussion about where all the good men have gone — “Oh you should meet this friend of mine, he’s tall, broad, has long flowing hair… just like Shiva.”
Seems like it’s not just the poster boys of classic rock who have competition from Shiva — our Hollywood/Bollywood hunks should watch out as well.