Meet the Sikh with passion for Ganesha! | art and culture | Hindustan Times
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Meet the Sikh with passion for Ganesha!

This is one north Indian whom all Maharashtrians love. A Sikh devoted to collecting idols, statues, ancient books and artefacts on their favourite Hindu god, Ganesha.

art and culture Updated: Jan 16, 2009 15:05 IST

This is one north Indian whom all Maharashtrians love. For, Joginder Singh Kahaan, a Sikh, is devoted to collecting idols, statues, ancient books and artefacts on their favourite Hindu god, Ganesha.

"My efforts of the past almost 20 years have resulted in the world's largest individual collection dedicated to Lord Ganesha - numbering over 10,000," Kahaan, 57, told IANS at his Navi Mumbai office.

Now Kahaan has taken the next step - dedicating his collection to the people. From Saturday, a part of it will go on public display at a venue newly set up by him, International Ganpatidham & Research Centre (IGRC) in Pune.

To be inaugurated by Shiv Sena senior leader and former Lok Sabha speaker Manohar Joshi, the centre will also have a retail outlet for people to buy Ganesha idols, pictures and artefacts.

"The profits would go to the Guardian God Charitable Trust, Pune. Though I have spent a lot of money on building up this collection, I have vowed never to make it a business," Kahaan said.

Kahaan quit his job with the Uttar Pradesh police to become an entrepreneur and is at present a security services consultant. He considers himself lucky that his wife Harcharan Kaur and college-going son Paramjeet not only tolerate his hobby but also support him wholeheartedly.

By next year, the IGRC will shift to Vavandhan village, near Khopoli, around 150 km from Mumbai, where he has bought 11 acres of land for the purpose. It will house the entire collection, which also has coins and stamps, plus have a research centre for Indian and foreign students and a library on Lord Ganesha and basic board and lodging facilities.

In its full avatar, the IGRC will have all the 32 forms of Lord Ganesha, 27 forms worshipped in other countries, and 21 forms of Vinayaki, plus over 6,000 books, pictures, paintings, over 5,000 idols of the elephant God ranging from clay to stone to precious stones.

Pune-born Kahaan grew up viewing some of the most opulent celebrations of the annual 10-day Ganpati festival. But he was introduced to Lord Ganesha as a family tradition by his niece, who is married to a Maharashtrian.

"That was around 20 years ago, and since then there has been no looking back," said Kahaan, who has travelled to some of the remotest corners of India to pursue his obsession. Each time he returned with some or the other rare treasure or added to his knowledge on the elephant-headed god.

Many are not aware that apart from India, Lord Ganesha is worshipped in 35 countries around the world, he explained.

"The Tatvanidhi Granth, an ancient treatise, says there are 32 forms of Lord Ganesha and I have seen all of them during my travels in India," he said.

He was surprised to find female forms of Lord Ganesha, known as Vinayaki, in some temples in south India. In the entire Maharashtra, there are only two idols of Vinayaki, one in a temple in Ambejogai in Beed district and another at Rahimatpur in Satara, he said.

The country's biggest - 85-foot-tall - idol of Lord Ganesha can be found in Topegaon village in Kolhapur district of Maharashtra.

Even Rajasthan has some unique temples - one in Rehra dedicated to Vinayaki and the country's only Gad-Ganesha Temple in Jaipur, which has an idol of Ganesh before his head was cut off and replaced by an elephant head as per myth.

"There is one unique idol - Lord Ganesha in a female lioness form - in a temple in Meenakshipuram. Many people fail to notice that there are 71 carvings of Lord Ganesha in the world famous Khajuraho Temple in Madhya Pradesh," Kahaan said.

Kahaan was stunned to see a six-foot-tall Ganesha in Bhandara district of eastern Maharashtra. "Legend has it that a few centuries ago, there was a devout worshipper of Lord Ganesha. After he died, his body turned into a Ganesha idol, which people consider as an ultimate form of divine blessing. I recommend it to all those who visit central India," he added.

Eight countries have issued postage stamps honouring Lord Ganesha, including one by the former princely state of Datia in Uttar Pradesh, and the Indonesian currency carries a figure of the elephant god.

Next month, Kahaan's travels will take him to see the 16 temples of Lord Ganesha in Nepal, including a six-headed mural.