Sunday, August 2, 2009

Create your own "green" Ganapati (Ganesha)

We read and hear a lot about being green. I have read a lot and have transformed myself to be as green as possible. This lead to using cloth bags for groceries, no paper towels in the kitchens and avoid using dryer and ….the list will go on.

Last year I thought of being creative and attempted making a clay “Ganesha”. Growing up in Bombay and having a family tradition of celebrating Ganesh Festival every year I thought of making a Ganesha at home. Ganesha idols available in the stores are often made of Plaster of Paris which doesn’t dissolve in water. So, when the Ganesha idol is immersed in water as per tradition this material stays in the same form and contaminates water bodies and clogs the water springs.

I researched a lot about making a green Ganesha and green ganapati, I came across you tube videos that did have an option of making an idol with paper, with fruits and dry-fruits. All were excellent options. I decided to use Clay, a naturally available material.

Here is my experience making the Ganesha –

List of material –

  1. Clay. (I used Moist clay thats ready to use, AIR DRY Modeling clay from AMACO)
  2. Base for your work. (I used a wooden board. Clay doesn’t stick to wooden surface)
  3. Water for keeping the art work damp, for shaping and pasting separate parts
  4. Water or poster colors and brushes (#2 and #8)
  5. An exacto knife for cutting and carving clay

I bought a 10lb pack of clay from Michaels ( in Plano, Hobby Lobby also has this brand. I had no concrete plans of execution, however, had some idea and the will. First, thing you will have to make would be a good estimate of the size. Based on that you will have to make separate spheres of clay – for face, torso and the legs (for the legs you can make two elongated rolls). Remember some names of Ganesha and go further with your preparation, example: Big ears (Lambodar), one tooth (Ekdanta), etc.

Once you have the spheres with proper size the next step would be place them accordingly. Place the two rolls for the legs on the wooden board. This should look like a person sitting with crossed legs (Lotus posture or Padmasan). Then place the torso on the legs. You may require a bigger base of clay, this will act as a support for the complete art work. You can cut or remove the base later. Place the face sphere on top of the torso.

Take a few steps back and look at your art work. You will see an outline of the sitting posture of Ganesha. Keep your art work damp at all times. Clay is easily moldable when wet. Now you can work on other body parts, think of all the names and start molding. Ganesha has large ears (Surpakarnakam), tusks (Ekdanta) and trunk. For making the ears, take a piece of clay and make a flat coin like structure. If your idol is big then make a bigger flat piece. Make the sides of the head moist so you can easily blend the ears. Place the ear on the side. You will need to use lot of water, wet your fingers and with light strokes try to blend the head and ears evenly. Make sure both ears are equal in size. If they are not equal you still have an opportunity to add more clay. Now with wet fingers you can shape the ears as required.

Using the same procedure you can add tusks and trunk to your art work. Reshape the torso to give it a realistic appearance, like broad shoulders and a big stomach (Lambodar). Now you can make two small elongated rolls of clay to represent the two arms. Don’t worry about the palms for now. Make sure you use lot of water to paste and shape the two arms. Blend the arms with the torso. Use very light pressure to flatten the end of the arms so that it looks like a palm.

Remember the name Chaturbhuj (four hands), we still have two arms. Since these can be very close to the body you may make these very tiny, one in the form of blessing (Varadmudra) and one taking Prasad or for a Laddo. Add two tiny feet at the bottom of the legs. See the picture up to this stage here.

The structure so far will be very uneven and this is the time to smoothen the art work.

Wet your fingers and lightly smoothen the surface.

To complete the structure you can add a crown on the head.

Don’t forget the mushak at the feet of Ganesha. If you wish to increase the height of the idol or want the Ganesha to sit on a raised structure then you can make a platform (pat) as shown in the figure.

Once you have reshaped and added all the details then you can let the idol dry completely. It will take about 2-3 days for the clay to dry. Once dry the idol will be hard and brittle. Do not apply pressure (accidentally) on any part once the idol is dry. It may break and will be difficult to patch.

When the idol is dry you can use a fine sand paper (200) and lightly sand the surface. This will remove any uneven surfaces that you couldn’t smoothen while the clay is moist. This will also help to apply color on the smooth surface. Do not use pressure while sanding as you may break some delicate pieces, like the trunk and tusks.

Once the idol is smooth and dry it is ready to be painted and decorated. You can choose your color combination. I kept it simple and decided to paint the complete idol with saffron color (Shendur color). For the color to be bold and bright you will need at least three coats of color. Allow time for the previous coat to dry and then apply the next coat.

Decorate the idol with ornaments – use gold metallic color and bindis of your choice.

Total preparation time ~7 hours.

I worked on this art work over a period of two weeks. Every time I took a break I ensured that I kept the idol moist. I covered the idol with paper towel and sprayed water over it. Don’t let the paper towel dry at any given time till you reach a stage where all details are included.

Ganapati Bappa Morya!!


2009 Ganapati photo:

Total preparation time ~15 hours:

Tried to add lot of details this year. The experience was amazing.



This year I managed to get a mould and tried to make the Ganapati idol. I used the same material as in the past years. The mould is a six piece set that forms an enclosure. It has to be filled with clay. The easist way to complete the idol is to put together the front side of the mould and s

tart filling clay. The clay consistency should be a bit thicker than the dough used for cake mix (a better comparison is "chapati aata"). You can take the clay as is from the box, you will have to soften it a bit by kneading it for some time. Make sure that you press hard on the clay so the impressions and other details come out nice on the idol. Be a bit careful near the trunk region, you will have to fill clay in the curved region. Fill clay completely in the half mould. The clay can be removed immediately. Before you do this you can fill the back piece of the mould in the same way you did the front. The back is much easier. To remove the front side of the mould start from a good place where you can pull the clay from the edges. I found it easier to pull from the bottom. You can also place the filled front mould on the back and try to pull out the clay from the front. Once the biggest piece comes off then it is easier to remove the other pieces. Do the same with the back side. You will have to align the front and back pieces and use water to glue them togeth

er. Please read the 2008 preparation above. Clay as a medium is extremely good to work when it is wet. (I found it very tough to align the front and back sides perfectly. I didnt focus a lot on the back region as it would not be seen once the idol is complete and ready to worship) After you remove the front side you will notice that it needs some (a lot) rework. Use your judgement and try to give some finishing touches. The two hands are different from the mould. You will have to make these separately and then use water to paste it to the main body. Here are some pictures that I took while preparing the idol.

Mould pieces.

Out of the mould, after a lot of touchup and finishing. Its wet and kept for drying.

Dry and ready to be painted

Painting done.....

Ready to be worshiped.

Stats as usual -

Total preparation time:

Getting in to shape using the mould and finishing ~3.5 hours.

Painting ~ 5.5 hours.


Vishesh Thakur - for making the mould

Saili - getting the mould to me

Pradeep More - Telling me how to start using the mould. I was completely lost as to how to begin with

Varada Dighe - Painting

Ganapati Bappa Morya !!

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Quotable Quotes

Whatever quotes I read and I like, gets here!!

  • If you were to talk more than listen, then you would have two mouths and one ear!!

  • Its about Mind over Matter - if you do not mind it does not matter.

  • Do not GO Through your Life, GROW through your Life.
  • We should try to see things as they are and not as we are.
  • Champions take chances and pressure is a privilege.

  • If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got.

  • For the sunshine to come in the blinds must be raised.

  • Open minds speak more than open mouths.

  • To Each His Own.

  • We are as happy as we tell our mind to be.

  • When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.