I walked into the narrow lanes of Chinchpokli. They were wet from a downpour before dawn. I looked around and saw remnants of last year’s Ganesh Festival decorations. Do they intentionally leave them around to feel festive all year round?
Walking further into the by-lanes, a black cat jumped from what seemed like a broken-down dump truck and crossed my path. Across cultures, it’s a superstition. Here, an aura of belief lingered. I felt it.
There were several makeshift studios covered in tarp. It seemed eerily familiar and yet I was so removed, all at once.
I stepped into an artisan’s studio. The smell of cement leapt at me. Counter-intuitively, it felt raw, earthy, rooted.
It was only when I looked around that I realized why.
Inside this place, faith becomes a muse to creation and art finds purpose.
Generations of artisan families live in the area housing studios from which they promulgate the tradition of crafting idols the city fervently prays to through a 10-day-long festival, in tribute to Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God.
I found myself adhering to a long-standing practice of removing one’s shoes at the doorstep of temples, even before I entered the studio. This place prepared and housed the deities that would be installed in several improvised temples around the city through those 10 days.
The moulded idols were fascinating in their forms: coloured, uncoloured, raw and finished.
Every murti (idol) evoked serenity and warmth. My heart was full.
Every murti, intricately designed.
An artisan’s belief, so carefully enveloping the beliefs of so many, seemed magically crafted into each idol.
I found faith in their faith.
Mumbai is euphoric. Any time of year.
During the Ganesh Festival, it is euphoric beyond belief, with belief.
These idols, in their final stages of preparation a few weeks before the festival, blend a perfectly imperfect people from all walks of life, creeds and ideologies.
Celebration overlooks labels.
The city reverberates the sound of lazims and the elated chant of: ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya.’
It translates from the Konkani tongue to: “Come before me Lord, so I may behold you.”
When it rains on Mumbai during the arrival and sojourn of the Lord, the city isn’t just wet, it is believed to be swept of its sorrows.
The eyes of an idol will tell you – the purest eyes are those that have wept and been humbled to forgive, bless, receive, respect and continue to seek, finding, every so often, faith.
Sight for the soul.
An earnest gaze.
Magic in the making.
Hand in hand. Always.
Before me. Beside me. Above me. Within me.
Maahi Shah picks up her lens and makes some notes right after.
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