Nestled in the beautiful village of
St Estevam with its pristine green fields and beautiful houses lining the narrow roads of the village, a masterpiece is being created for the festival of Ganesh. The quiet village bustles with cheer for the 21 days of Ganesh as visitors across the state, make it a point to visit the beautifully sculpted idol of Lord Ganesh also known as ‘Juvemche Raja’.
Photo by Siddesh Mayenkar
A view from the foot of the hill, this workshop looks like any other welder’s workshop but a closer look reveals the beauty of the first stages of creating a huge work of art. Tukaram Chodankar, the main artist for the Kala Yuvak Sangh Committee, is hard at work in a makeshift workshop, wielding metals pieces together and detailing the picture perfect portraits. His main medium for the portraits is not paint but a medium that is very difficult to work with, sawdust. Renowned for winning several awards from the Goa Art and Culture Department and for their Ganesh idols, Tukaram doesn’t take the competition by heart but wants to bring out the best in the artists from the village to present it to the rest of Goa. The village boys gather under the leadership of Tukaram to start out with brainstorming for ideas, finally narrowing it down to creating portraits of Gods and saints comprising of different religions to show communal harmony.
This is the fifth year, the committee will be making a Ganesh idol using different materials. “For the first year we made an idol with different types of coconut products. It won the first prize in the Art and Culture department. The second year, we had an entire idol carved with black marble stone, the third was ‘Ashtavinayak’, with Ganesh sculptures carved out of the rock and the fourth year it was created using sand sculpting which also won the first prize of the Art and Culture department. This year, we are working with sawdust, water and fevicol to create portraits of different religious leaders like Jesus and Mother Mary, Vishnu, Guru Nanak, Swami Vivekananda, Mother Teresa, Radha Krishna and Namdev to name a few. We started working on the portraits in July and now we are adding the finer details for the delicate and fragile sawdust,” says Tukaram as he works along with two other artists, scrapping out the excess sawdust.
Photo by Siddesh Mayenkar
Sawdust is a very unusual medium to handle as it is very unstable material when dry. “In the olden days, every house in St Estevam has a stove using sawdust called a ‘shegdi’ which was used to cook food with the slow burning flame. We thought of those days and decided to use it as a medium. We went visiting several saw mills for the material and have almost completed with the base work for the entire artwork. There is lot more to do,” adds Tukaram.
With 80 percent of the villagers belonging to the Catholic community, the villagers openly help with setting up the idol. “All the youngsters make it a point to visit the site after returning home from work. They are here to help on Sundays and holidays. The Catholic community supports us a lot with the parish priest even inaugurating the first Ganesh idol. Everyone in the village lives in harmony and we wanted to show the same through this creation,” says Tukaram. He worked in Saudi Arabia for 14 years before returning back to Goa. Working as an artist there too, he felt there was a limited scope for expressing one’s freedom. “We were not allowed to paint any religious figures, yet I used to paint pictures of Jesus and other Gods to gift my friends who would revere them in the comforts of their home. I even used to do wood craving for my close ones,” says Tukaram with joy.
The Ganesh idol will be put on display from the second day of Ganesh Chaturthi onwards for 21 days at Tonca, St Estevam that will show the creative geniuses hidden in Goan villages.