Friday, 12 October 2007

My "Sri Ganesh"

My "Sri Ganesh"

Remigius de Souza

“SRI GANESH” here means “a beginning” in our languages. I did my Sri Ganesh in education by experiential learning at my native place in Konkan. We kids played with soil, lived with soil, worked with soil. We grew up on the paddy fields and woods. That was our K.G. school. Konkan has been rich in biodiversity of plants and animals. It still is.

I also did my “Sri Ganesh” in clay modelling during my primary school education. A teacher had rented a house nearby when he was transferred to the school. He made modest number of Ganesh idols in clay for the forthcoming festival. I used to visit his workshop, there in the large open veranda of the house. I would quietly sit observing. Whenever asked I would do the errands such as, whitewashing the statues etc. for him. Sometimes I was given a fistful of clay to play with. I used to make a sparrow, a cat, a lamp, a whistle etc. out of the same lump.

I also participated, as a helper, in the building work of our mud house, from foundation to roof. Of course, in villages, farming, house or temple or well or road building had been a work of community participation for generations, until now. Hence the user – the householder or the community – had autonomy in decision making. Being a child I was exposed to various skills, learnt some by working: it is a lifelong process for any art or craft – farming, masonry, woodwork, bamboo work, pottery, smithy etc.

I don’t know how “Sri Ganesh” acquired the meaning “a beginning”; some people though begin their work by invoking the blessings of Sri Ganesh. There is a story of how Ganesh was born. His mother Sri Parvati was going to take bath. Nobody was around, so she removed dirt from her skin and made a model and put life into him, and told him to be on guard while she takes bath. That dirt is sweat and soil (waters and land) that was added with Life: the emergence of Sri Ganesh.

Later I did a short course in clay modelling in the department of sculpture with Shankar Kanade at Sir J. J. School of Art. We studied under Prof. Manjarekar. Principal Dhond, the dean was kind to give us the admission. We were studying in the final year of architecture.

When I was a visiting faculty at college of architecture, I introduced the use of clay as a material to study the Basic Design and Building Design in the first year, but not without a stiff resistance from the peer. Their argument was working with clay in the studio will make the place dirty. Perhaps they were unaware that many sculptors all over the world did their sketches also in clay.

At other time, I was working for a NGO on a project to give new houses to the Katkari Tribe in Raigad District near Mumbai. I had proposed to use clay blocks for walls made by hand operated machine. I even got three sample house made. It was even sanctioned by the Union Government Agency. Here too I met a stiff resistance from some of the personnel within and well wishers of the NGO, which, of course, is run by the elite urbanite.

Apparently it seems the urban / urbanized elite are divorced from the nature, land and waters, and treat them as commodities. To restore this contact is the only way to mend the breach or the divide between rural and urban people.

Why do villagers – in rural or urban areas, and those who have roots in the past, love Sri Ganeshso much? Even though there is so much progress, and with that the meanings are getting lost, and even though I was converted to Christianity, our roots are not yet lost. The agrarian society has close bond with land, water and life.



Remigius de Souza
Post Mail: 69-243 S. B. Marg, Mumbai 400028, INDIA


  1. I find Indian Archetypes are varied and plenty in different regions. This post mentions a few.

  2. Hi,
    Indeed there are several cultural sub-groups, as many as brodaly sixt. And they have rich cultural heritage that needs to be saved from the onslaught of market and industry, particularly the entertainment industry.