For 12 years now, 52-year-old Prakash Lahane, has been dressing up as goddess Durga for Navratri. Pursuing a part-time course of painting at JJ school of Architecture at Fort, Lahane does not believe in limiting himself to a single job. From pleating the saree to ensuring that it falls right and matches the majesty of the goddess, Lahane proudly says that he can complete the task in 10 minutes.
“I did not attend any art school in my childhood. I used to wander around workshops where idols of Lord Ganesha and devis would be made. Having grown up with artists throughout my life, I have tried to make a career in this field. While I sketch models of deities, including Ganesha, Durga and other goddesses, for mandals before artists mould them, I also drape dhotis for Ganesha and sarees for the devis,” he said.
During Navratri, Lahane switches between five to six pandals a day, during which he drapes sarees in different ways on the idols. A resident of Byculla, Lahane is required to change the saree every day during the festival as the idol’s sarees are changed according to the colour decided for that day. While the sarees are provided by the mandals, the style of draping it is Lahane’s prerogative.
“I have been doing this job for the last 12 years. Draping a saree on an idol depends upon so many factors — the way the idol has been seated on the pedestal, her standing position, her height and the body type. Usually, I ask the mandals in which way they would like the saree to be draped. I can drape sarees in Gujarati and different types of Marathi styles, including the peshwai, nine-yards and six-yards. Out of each form, the nine-yards remains the most popular,” he said.
While mandals usually trust female artists with the job, Lahane has gained trust among some popular mandals, including Chintamani at Chinchpokali, where he has draped sarees for more than 10 years. “Anyone, who knows how to drape a saree can do so. But the mandals may like my work because I can do it efficiently withing 10 minutes. For a 10-foot model of a goddess at Chintamani, three sarees are required. I try to make the style unique — for example — if an idol is holding out her hand to offer blessings, I drape the pallu of the saree around that hand,” he said.
While Lahane makes a decent earning from draping sarees, he also holds an exhibition of his paintings on Ganesha, moulds Bal Ganesha idols and is equally involved in other artwork to support his family.
“I take inspiration from the way women wear their attire, how they hold their pallu while cooking or in public. I experiment a lot though,” he added.
“One cannot stereotype work based on gender. As an artist, making your model look beautiful must be your aim. This is what I do,” he added.