The art of traditional Ganesha idols is now slowly disappearing, and in the future, and is currently on the verge of extinction.
Following the situation, one opines that Ganesha devotees have to accept plaster of Paris idols as the only alternative?
While such a question is being raised, a senior artist from Pali in Sattari taluka sculpted and painted Ganesh idols for the last sixty-five years. Budhaji Gaonkar, alias Appa has trained his children and grandchildren in this art to continue the traditional culture. He says he gets self-satisfaction for this work and called it the best degree. Regarding Goemkarponn’s Uday Sawant, Gaonkar talks about the ups and downs in his 65-year career. He says he has dedicated 65 years of his life to the art of making traditional idols. Budhaji Gavkar, a resident of Pali in Thane Panchayat area of Sattari taluka, has so far made around one and a half lakh idols.
Q: How did you start making idols, and how it became your career?
Gaonkar: I was about twenty years old when I got into the habit of going to the fields and making different idols by putting our hands in the soil. First, we were making small idols. But we were getting a lot of pleasure out of it. For nearly two years, we made idols and carve them as much as we could. The model then slowly began to take shape. It started giving me spiritual satisfaction. I do not know when this art became my passion. Today, sculpture has become an essential part of my life.
Q. How did it become a profession, and how many idols have you made so far?
Gaonkar: I started making idols when you were about twenty years old. Today I are 85 years old. I mean, for almost 65 years, I have begun doing this art. I make around two hundred and fifty idols every year. It started with just twenty idols initially. Today, that number has skyrocketed. In the last 65 years, we have made around one and a half lakh different types of idols, and we have tried to infuse special art in them so that the devotees will like them. Our idols are going to more than 15 villages of Sattari taluka, and these idols are also in special demand in the villages outside the taluka.
Q: Over the years, we have seen many PoP idols, which is cheaper. Can you afford sculpture art at current rates?
Gaonkar: In the early days, we sold idols for only 25 paise. Now the price of a normal idol is around one thousand rupees. However, this rate is not affordable compared to the current rising inflation. But you can never have a business approach when it comes to sculpting. We often give free idols to Ganesh devotees who do not have money but never looked back. Over the last few years, there has been a problem with the availability of clay. Due to this, there is a massive increase in rates. Due to this, there is a great challenge in the market today to make traditional sculptures. Traditional sculptors will have to face challenging problems in the future since the idols of Plaster of Paris are incredibly harmful to the environment. The only solution is using the traditional idols that need to be followed by everyone.
Q. What is your advice for the survival of the art of sculpture art?
Gaonkar: Preserving the art of traditional sculpture has always been our goal. Today, his son Rohidas is contributing to this art even after doing a government job. Similarly, our married daughter-in-law, grandson-in-law, and other area citizens are seen taking an interest in this sculptural art through various works. I think this is a significant contribution to make. Gaonkar said that he wants his family to set an example in the future in the same way he has kept the art alive for 65 years, and his efforts have been successful so far.