Many Ganesh mandals on the city streets, it's the season to see who makes the biggest, grandest, tallest idol. But for 57-year-old Jagdish Patwardhan, the Ganesh mantra has always been 'the smaller, the better'.
A retired accountant and amateur artist, Patwardhan specialises in making miniature models of the elephant lord on rice grains, sesame seeds and even the near-invisible specks of tulsi and poppy seeds. These idols, moreover, are three-dimensional not by sculpting, but by patiently applying layers of water-colours on the grain.
Neatly preserved in tiny air-tight boxes, Patwardhan's masterpieces include the Ashtavinayak set (eight avatars of Ganpati) painted on a single rice grain, another set on a grain of dal with Sai Baba on the reverse, and innumerable multi-coloured Ganpatis on seeds that cannot be seen without a powerful magnifying glass.
"When I made my first rice Ganesh in 1975, I wanted to break away from the fashion in those days of making idols as tall as 22 feet," said Patwardhan. The Borivli resident had his first exhibition of miniatures during the Ganesh festival of 1976 in the Kalbadevi chawl where grew up. It included paintings of Ganpati on a strand of silk and on a single cow hair.
"To make miniatures, you need creativity, patience, a steady hand and good eye-sight," said Patwardhan, whose works have found a place in a Pune museum, even though he has not held an exhibition since 1988.
The son of a professional painter, Patwardhan developed an early interest in exploring different styles of creating art. His portfolio has gods, goddesses and other figures made entirely by drawing compass arcs and outlines of coins. He also devised a set of broad, angular Ganeshas, which can be seen in the correct proportions when reflected in the metallic curve of a pen.
"Ganesh is my favourite God, and my favourite subject for painting," said Patwardhan.
(Those interested in viewing Jagdish Patwardhan's miniature artwork can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a meeting.)