Soorya Krishnamoorthy invites visitors to view his 1,500-plus Ganesha collection that he has displayed at his house in the city
Ganesha reigns in this house. Collecting images of Lord Ganesha is more than a hobby for Soorya Krishnamoorthy. The art connoisseur got hooked to the passion some two decades ago. His house at Thycaud, filled with around 1,500 Ganesha images – as idols, paintings, sculptures and curios – is now open to the public.
The decision comes in the wake of the renovation of his 45-year-old house Sooryachaitanya (earlier named Chaitanya).
“People can just walk in and see the collection,” says Krishnamoorthy. The Ganeshas, in gold, silver, crystal, brass, bronze, granite, papier-mâché, stones…, are arranged aesthetically in every part of the house, right from the entrance onwards. If a laterite compound wall has Ganeshas chiseled on it, there are Ganeshas carved on another wall. Ten stone figurines of the pot-bellied god embellish the garden, which is landscaped in the form of a Ganesha.
A mandapa with two idols of Ganesha give a special feel to the garden. “It was Yesudas [K.J.Yesudas] who suggested that there should be a mandapa, since that is the ‘kannimoola’ [north-east point, which is believed to be auspicious according to Vastu Sastra] of the house,” he says.
Right at the entrance is an idol of Ganesha in stone, which weighs nearly three tonnes. Above the entrance is a panel, again featuring figures of the elephant-headed god. Even switchboards have been hidden using panels and paintings with myriad images of Ganesha.
Chants of Ganesha shlokas reverberate throughout the house. The rich look of the drawing room is enhanced with Ganesha figures of various kinds – a huge wooden panel has Ganeshas sculpted on it (“I got it from a haveli in Mumbai”), brass figures of Ganesha in different postures, cute little Ganeshas in crystal, embossed Ganesha images… you have it all. One of them, made of single piece of wood, has the elephant-headed god holding an umbrella. “It is kept on the space right above the chair where I always sit, since I feel he is holding the umbrella for me,” says Krishnamoorthy.
The pooja room has the oldest Ganesha in the collection. “It was gifted by Uthradom Tirunal Marthanda Varma. He said that it belonged to Swati Tirunal and was around 300 years old. That somehow sparked off a special interest in collecting the images,” he says.
A surprise awaits on the first floor – an atrium with shelves filled with Ganesha images in different media, alongside honours and awards that Krishnamoorthy has received over the years. Each figure is unique, like the Ganesha in wood he got from Japan.
“The large window gives a beautiful view of the sky. I want to hold performances/concerts here. It was Yesudas who first said that he would love to sing here. Also, I have arranged for a screen so that I can watch movies as well,” he says.
The man at the helm of the Soorya dance and music festival, which is now in its 36th year, Krishnamoorthy has plans to start an art gallery in his house. “Then I can keep the Ganesha images there as well. They keep coming to me, as if in a procession. Even now, every week I get at least four of them,” he says, adding: “I am constructing rooms for artistes who come to the capital city but can’t afford accommodation.”
A self-taught hand
Sheela Mani, who redesigned the house, is a self-taught interior designer. “I’m a homemaker and a singer, who has a passion for interior designing. I have helped some of my friends do up their homes in the Gulf and renovated my own home in the capital city. Sooryaji [Soorya Krishnamoorthy] visited my home once and asked me whether I could renovate his house as well,” says Sheela.
“I knew it was a challenge, as the house is very old. Also, with the Ganeshas strewn all over, it looked like a museum and not a home,” says Sheela.
First, the living room was made bigger. Some windows were plastered, some were made into niches to find space for the vast collection of Ganeshas. “The ones that would go into the niches were selected and the dimensions and placement of the niches were done accordingly. I had decided that no Ganesha would be placed on the floor,” she says. A combination of leather, silk and wood was chosen for the living room. The dining room was extended, an “ugly grill was replaced by toughened glass enabling us to see the beautiful Ganesha carving in laterite on the compound wall”.
She worked a lot on the tiny room upstairs where Krishnamoorthy used to keep the awards. “I had envisaged an atrium-like room with a clear view of the sky. With lots of technical help, the room was extended in two levels with skylighting, a huge bay window, a rock feature (not yet completed), wooden flooring and comfortable seating with bright cushions,” she says.