In the winding bylanes of the old city,behind the Mahatma Phule Mandai,preparations are in full swing for the upcoming Ganesh festival. The excitement at the Akhil Mandai Mandal,however,is of a different kind. Today,118 years ago,the idol was first installed on the premises of the temple located near the Mandai. And it is here that Sangeeta Vedpathak has been continuing another tradition that of painting the idol.
Following in her fathers footsteps,Sangeeta has been painting the idol of Lord Ganesha every year for the last 13 years. My father did this for almost 50 years. I do not know who painted the idol before he started. But we have been doing it for over 60 years now, she says.
The idol itself has stood the test of time. Over the years,the temple authorities have tried to install a new one in its place only to see the latter either develop cracks or break. They then installed the old idol. Every year,I paint the idol afresh, she says.
Repainting the idol is a three-step process. First,we remove the existing colours. The idol is then given a white coat and then painted, Sangeeta says. The idea is to make the idol seem as realistic as possible. Since my fathers time,the main task has been to make the statue seem lifelike,so devotees feel a connect with the deity.
For Sangeeta,painting the idol is a matter of three weeks and a half. I work with the agriculture department. My husband Vivek and son Pratik also help me while I work on the statue. Its wonderful to see people appreciate my efforts, she says. Even the colours that are used for the painting correspond with the ones that are used during the major puja. Giving it a fresh coat not only preserves the statue but also gives it a new look every year, she adds.