“The most important function of art and science is to awaken the cosmic religious feeling and keep it alive.”
— Albert Einstein
Vakratunda Mahakaya Suryakoti Samaprabha. Nirvignam Kurume Deva Sarva Karyeshu Sarvada Anyone who follows Lord ‘Ganesha’ or the Elephant God is well versed with the above mantra. Ganesha or Ganapathi or Pulleyar: Many names are given to this one ‘God’ who dominates above the rest. There have been several stories of Ganesha in the sacred Upanishads which make him the most revered God of the Hindu religion. For the people of Maharashtra, Ganesh Chaturthi is like a celebration like none other.
The date of Ganesh Chaturthi falls on the fourth day of the waxing moon period (Shukla Chaturthi) in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada. This is in August or September each year. The festival is usually celebrated for 11 days, with the biggest spectacle taking place on the last day called Anant Chaturdasi. To mark this auspicious celebration, two artists with two contrasting yet identical shows pledge their undying love towards Ganesha. Lokeshwar Rao Madiraju, a retired IFS officer and Sapna Dube have created a series of oeuvres with the narrative of the God. Lokeshwar Rao’s solo show comes after years of dedication captured on a camera lens. The artist has been a well-travelled man which helped him in his rendezvous with Lord Ganesha in different states. Lokeshwar peeks into the journey of the statues made by artisans that has taken months of effort, podiums, pandals and eventually places the Ganesha by doing pranapritishta and finally immerses them in water. The whole process is photographed from different parts of the country like Hyderabad, Mumbai, Maharashtra, and Bengaluru.
Sapna Dube on the other hand is an exuberant artist, blogger and splendid narrator. She is equally phenomenal with her words as she is with her paintings. Her use of bright colours reminds us of the prominent American artist Andy Warhol. What sets Sapna’s oeuvre apart from the rest is the fact that she has visually and verbally, in an interesting way communicated some of the more prevailing topics today how despite worshipping Ganesha as an idol, how we have continually been disregarding the actual ‘elephant’ by torturing the animal.
Sapna says “He’s known as Daisho Kangiten, the deity of joy in Japan. Maha Peinne or great bliss in Myanmar. His sculptures adorn Angkor Vat in Cambodia and he is an ambivalent, quasi-demonic figure in Tantric Buddhism. In India, Ganapati or Ganesha enjoys the unique disposition of being revered and kitsch at the same time, worshipped as the remover of obstacles and the lord of calculation, the half-man-half-elephant god who also finds himself on calendars, dashboards and as a cautionary warning to avoid people peeing on walls.’’ Sapna will also be releasing her illustrative book which sheds light on the relevance of various ‘Aspects’ of Ganesha and what significance the mouse, and the broken tusk has on our lives. Sapna’s exhibition continues at Taj West End and Venkatappa Art Gallery until September 20.
The writer is an art expert and curator.
Q&A: The artist speaks
Your book interestingly highlights anecdotes and information about Ganesh. Do you think that people still don’t know the symbolic references to Ganesha, mouse and tusks? Sapna Dube: Every symbol associated with him signifies something beautiful and meaningful. I discovered my own ignorance about Ganesha when I was quizzed by my Belgian friend some time ago. As natives, we grow up seeing, doing things related to religion without really paying attention to or wanting to learn the deeper meanings.
How has travel impacted your oeuvre?
Lokeshwar Rao: During celebrations, one can see colours and look into natural scenarios and I learnt from a variety of artists working in Maharastra Andhra Pradesh and Karnatataka and their styles of depicting Ganesha and decorating Ganesha.