For the first time in 66 years, Hyderabad’s famed Khairatabad Ganesh idol will not be taller than the previous year’s idol, which was a record 66-feet in height. It has been a longstanding tradition to raise the idol’s height by one foot every year. But this year, the organisers have decided to install a 27-feet-tall clay idol, instead of the one made using plaster of paris. And this won’t be the only change.
It has also been decided that no devotees from other areas would be allowed for a personal visit during the 10-day festivities. They can, however, book for ‘puja’ online and have ‘darshan’ from their homes. The idol immersion on the 11th day, which usually witnesses a procession involving lakhs of people moving towards the Hussainsagar lake, will also be a low-key affair. There won’t be a procession this time. The idol will be dissolved on the spot.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, Singari Sudarshan Mudiraj, chairman of the Khairatabad Ganesh Utsav Samithi, said that the theme for the year’s Ganesh idol will revolve around COVID-19 and all ‘puja’ prayers will be focussed on the revival of the world from the pandemic.
“We have decided to install a Ganesh idol themed around God Dhanvantari, the Hindu god of medicine and an avatar of Lord Mahavishnu. There are many firsts this year. The idol will be of clay and organic colours. We won’t have a procession on the 11th day. The devotees will have to be satisfied with darshan from home via online. They could book their ‘puja’ via the official website. Only committee members will be present for the spot immersion,” he said.
Last year, around 40 lakh devotees had visited the temple and the Ganesh idol at Khairatabad over 10 days. The process of installation of the idol cost around Rs 1 crore, mostly met through public donations. The 66-feet tall idol was the biggest ever the Utsav Samithi had installed in the last 65 years.
Vice-President of the Samithi, Mahesh Yadav, says that the idol symbolises unity and brotherhood among the people. It was the present Chairman’s brother Late Singari Shankariah, a freedom fighter and former corporator, who started the Ganesh ‘puja’ in memory of the call given by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1893 to celebrate the festival. The first-ever idol, he says, was just 1-foot tall and had Lord Ganesh sitting on a lotus flower.
Owing to the pandemic and fast-rising number of COVID-19 cases in the city, it was not sure until now if the Samithi would go ahead with the festivities, and if yes, how. Even with all restrictions this year, the residents from the neighbourhood would be allowed to visit the temple after installing barricades to maintain 6-feet physical distancing, Yadav adds.
About the Ganesh idol this year, chief architect of the idol-making process Chinnaswamy Rajendran said that the workers associated with moulding the idol will start the work in the coming days. Even as a cloud of uncertainty loomed large over this year’s festivities, the organisers had conducted a ‘Karra Puja’ on May 18, to kick start the process. Rajendran, a former artist in south Indian cinema, has been the chief designer and supervisor for the idol-making process since 1978. After working in a Telugu mythological film titled ‘Daana Veera Soora Karna’ produced by legendary superstar-turned-politician who went onto become the Andhra Pradesh chief minister, NT Rama Rao, with himself in the lead role in 1976, Rajendran had moved from Tamil Nadu to Hyderabad making the city his home.
According to him, the theme for the year was decided after consulting with astrologer Siddanti Gowri Patla Vitthal Sharma, like every year. “My first Ganesh idol in 1978 was 14-feet tall. That was the first time the idol was kept outside the temple. Every year, the size was increased by 1 foot,” he says.
This time, last year, around 120 artists were working hard day and night on installing the biggest Ganesh idol. Though the work usually finishes in three months, last year it took a month more than usual. Explaining the process, Rajendran says that setting up a workshed on the site after Karra Puja itself takes 15 days. Then, the welding works to make the outline structure of the idol takes another 30 days, while artists simultaneously start working on small idols that accompany the main one.
“We bring around 120 artists from different parts of the country. They include Clay artists from Chennai, P-O-P artists from Maharashtra, artists from Bihar and Bengal who expertise in giving a glass finishing to the idol, and also artists from the Telugu film industry. The painting works are done by artists from Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh,” says Rajendran. The works are planned and completed at least one week before Ganesh ‘puja’ which marks the commencement of 10-day festivities.
According to Samithi convenor Sandeep Raj Mudiraj, there was no doubt about the conduct of Ganesh festivities this year. It is just that, he says, the committee wants to ensure that the festival does not lead to further spreading of the virus. “Further discussions are ongoing to make everything comfortable for everyone. The theme of Dhanvantari itself was symbolic of our efforts to overcome the pandemic,” he says.
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