In August and September of every year, many states in India celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, one of the most significant Hindu festivals of the year. It celebrates the birth of Ganesha, one of the most-worshipped deities in Hinduism, who’s known as the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences, and the deva of wisdom. In 1983, the celebration was transformed by renowned social activist Bal Gangadhar Tilak from private household affairs to the gala-style celebration that we see today.
每年八月和九月，印度多地会举办大型庆祝活动，迎接一个盛大的节日—象神节。 这个节日的出现是为了纪念象头神迦尼萨（印度教中一位重要的神明）的诞辰，迦尼萨是创生和破除障碍之神，艺术和科技的灵感之神，也是智慧的象征。这个节日的出现要追溯至1983年，那时印度社会活动家 Bal Gangadhar Tilak 将这个节日从私人的家庭式庆祝活动转变为现如今公众性质的大型庆典活动。
As part of the festival, people bring idols of Ganesha home; build pandals, which are temporary structures specifically made to host larger idols; and gather in public spaces to celebrate over the course of ten days. In the days leading up to the festival, before being stationed at the intended pandal, giant statues of Ganesha can already be spotted around the city. The actual festival is even more of an impressive sight: traffic stands at a complete halt, the roads glimmer in the saffron of marigold, shankha conch shells are blown, and the drums don’t stop beating. People dance and cheer in sheer joy at seeing Lord Ganesha.
在这个节日里，人们将象头神神像带回家，并专门搭建临时“神棚” （Pandal）来供奉如此巨型的象头神像。大家出门聚在一起庆祝这个节日，前后大约十天，十分热闹。在节日开始之前，人们会举着巨型象头神在城市里巡游，最后才将它放置于神棚里。 节日的时候，整座城市的交通会临近瘫痪状态，道路两旁摆满橙黄色的万寿菊，人们吹着螺号打着鼓，气氛十分热烈。大家跳舞，欢呼，沉浸于将象头神带回家的快乐中。
However, the workshops that are set up and prepare months prior to the festival are often forgotten. Artists and laborers work from day to night for weeks on end, toiling away to perfect the details of each idol. Typically, these idols are made of gypsum plaster, with larger idols reaching heights of around 30 to 40 feet. Their smaller counterparts are eco-friendly, being made with china clay or mud. Some of the even smaller idols are made with non-traditional materials like papier-mâché, pencils, or even cardamom.
“We sculpt these idols starting from the base and that goes on until the tip of the crown,” an artist commented as he chiseled away at the statue. “This is the most time-consuming part of the process. Once the sculpting phase is over, we’ll then apply a certain amount of heat to the statue, especially around the joints, so that it can harden.”
“我们从底部开始雕刻这些神像，一路往上，直到神像的头冠” 一位神像艺术家一边雕刻一边向我们解释道。“雕刻是整个神像制造过程中最耗时的部分。 雕刻结束之后，我们要给雕像加热，特别是各部分连接的位置，这个步骤让它更加牢固。”
One of the most incredible parts of the creation process is when colors and lines are introduced to the bare statues. The idols are painted by hand from top to bottom with small brushes. Gleaming shades of reds and blues are applied to the attire, the symbolic lotus of Lord Ganesha’s right palm is drawn, the lines of the ear lobes are added, and Ganesha’s crown is made to shine. Every small detail is given its rightful share of attention. “I’m very particular about the eyes,” an artist says as he paints a small Ganesha idol that he planned to take home. “I take the maximum amount of time in getting them right. To me, that is where all the beauty and the energy of the idol is.”
Visiting the workshop was an inspiring experience. It was a place where people from different walks of life joined together and worked as one. To me, these artisans’ sense of dedication, faith, and unity are what truly make these idols come alive. This year’s Ganesh Chaturthi will begin on August 25th and end on September 5th. Mark your calendars if you want to see the festivities in person!