Mumbai’s sole woman Ganpati sculptor has 12 sarvajanik idols to her credit this year

Sep 19, 2023 12:39 AM IST

Reshma is the daughter of Vijay Khatu, who was well known in the idol-making industry. After his death in 2017 Reshma took over the reins of his workshop

Mumbai: Amid the sea of Ganpati murtikars (sculptors) in Mumbai stands a lone woman artisan for whom the process of sculpting goes beyond art: it is a blend of devotion to the elephant-faced god and a tribute to her late father, a pioneer in the industry. Reshma Khatu, 38, an adperson by profession, has sculpted 12 Ganpatis for sarvajanik (public) mandals this year.

Mumbai’s sole woman Ganpati sculptor has 12 sarvajanik idols to her credit this year
Mumbai’s sole woman Ganpati sculptor has 12 sarvajanik idols to her credit this year

Reshma, who owns an ad agency named BlueFrog, is the daughter of Vijay Khatu, who was well known in the Ganpati idol-making industry in Mumbai. It was after his untimely demise in 2017 that Reshma decided to carry forward his legacy and took over the reins of his workshop in Byculla. But while her father used to sculpt 300 to 350 sarvajanik idols a year, she takes only limited orders in his memory.

“I took over the very next day after his demise and completed the orders,” said Reshma. “In 2018, I restarted the workshop in his name and embarked on this alternate career. I can mould idols from earth, even paint them. I learnt from other artisans by observing them. But it was also in my genes.” Reshma comes from a family of sculptors, with a lineage of 75 years in the field. Many idol makers and sculptors blossomed under her father’s tutelage and regarded him as their sole guru.

Reshma’s 12 sarvajanik Ganesh idols this year are Chinchpoklicha Chintamani, Upnagracha Raja, Tardeocha Raja, Valsadcha Samrat, Sahar Darwaja Maharaja, Kolbhat Lanecha Raja, Lower Parelcha Laadka, Dharavicha Gajavakra, Vasaicha Maharaja, Akshar Mitra Mandal, Kamathipuracha Ganadhish and Kissan Nagarcha Chintamani. The idols were created with assistance from Ranjit Soni and a team of 12 other karigars from UP and Bihar, who come to Mumbai every year specially to help during Ganeshotsav and Durgotsav. The tallest Ganesh idol is 26 feet at Kolbhat lane in Charni Road.

“The most challenging idols are those balanced on a foot or a toe,” said Reshma. “When an idol is 26 feet high, the engineering work such as welding and fabrication has to be done with precision. We can’t afford to make mistakes, as the Ganpati can lose balance. The idol has to go intact from my workshop to the mandap and then for visarjan (immersion). So the most crucial part is the fabrication work, which I ensure is up to the mark.”

Reshma has a simple rule for mandals purchasing idols from her: they must be properly and ritualistically immersed in the sea. “Over the last two years, we saw some mandals buying idols which embody the sculptor’s spirit and religious sentiment but are abandoned without a proper immersion,” she said. “I do not appreciate this; it hurts our artistic and religious sentiments. I don’t make idols for mandals displaying callousness and money-mindedness without any devotion.”

When asked how she breathes life into the idols, Reshma explained the meticulous process. “The dyes were first handmade by my father,” she said. “Then the casting was done, later the body colour, skin tone, shading and finally the eyes. The confluence of all these completes the idol.”

Reshma and her helpers also have a devotional process while making the idols. They first take Ganesha’s name to clear obstacles and the names of their family deities. They then utter a prayer for the place where the idol is created and one for the place where the idol will be installed for darshan. “There has to be bhakti in the art,” said Reshma. “Later on, after the ‘murthi sthapana’, the bhakti of the devotees adds to the grace and glory of the idol. My father always told us: do this work with bhakti and the end result will always be desirable.”

Story Saved
Live Score
Saved Articles
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Saturday, September 23, 2023
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals