Artist P. Bala Bhakta Raju's name has become synonymous with Ganeshas. He tells Neeraja Murthy that his dream is to paint one lakh Ganeshas

As the country gears up to celebrate Vinayaka Chavithi a week from now, it's an everyday celebration in one house in Bolarum in Hyderabad. Away from the hustle of city life, this house opens a whole new world of Ganeshas.

P. Bala Bhakta Raju's name has been synonymous with the elephant god .

Ganesha as the theme

“I have been drawing Ganesha since I was a kid. As a professional artist I began seven years ago. Many artists start painting Ganeshas as a good omen but do not sustain after one or two years. They drift away and explore other themes. I have stayed with Ganeshas. It's only recently that I have decided to paint a new theme but I have not left my friend Ganesha,” says Bala Bhakta softly.

His friendship with Lord Ganesha began while studying in a government school in Seetaphalmandi. “Vinayaka Chavithi was the busiest season for us kids. We would go around the colony with a chanda book and collect money from the other colony members. With the money collected we would install a small Ganesha and offer our prayers. As we grew tall, the height of Ganeshas also went up,” he says.

After completing a BFA from Mysore, Bala Bhakta worked in advertising companies and while working in a jewellery store in Begumpet, he made drishti Ganeshas to be given away as gifts to the customers. He had worked for 15 years when he decided to become a full-time artist.

He began with the pot-bellied god. “The best thing about drawing Lord Ganesha is that one can never go wrong with the shape. Some artists who do not create a distinct figure draw some lines to create a pot-bellied structure and call it an abstract Ganesha. The god is quite accommodative,” he says with a laugh.

In the room, Bala Bhakta sits on a stool holding a globe painted with Ganesha and created in papier-mâché.

Ganeshas on different canvases fill the room. If he is playing veena in one, he is standing tall in another.

In one, he is like Krishna with a peacock feather in his hair and in another, he is offering a laddu. Bala Bhakta Raju's works are subtle yet vibrant. In their colour palette, distinctive strokes, finish and the shapes of those alluring eyes – rotund and elongated – his Ganeshas are like poetry. “This is Vani Ganapathy,” he says, looking at one picture. A common leitmotif in his works is the lotus. In one image of Ganesha, there are two lotuses in the background in pink and white, signifying Lakshmi and Saraswathi.

Bala Bhakta begins his day at 4 a.m. and paints for six hours. Another routine he has been following every day is to go to a temple.

“I paint when I want to paint. I don't make it like a compulsion,” he says.

He recently started a series titled ‘Meethi Meethi Baatein'.

He explains, “The concept is about love which is God's gift to couples. I have tried to depict the abiding faith men and women have in each other – in absence and in togetherness.” The artist says he feels humbled when he sees his paintings occupy pride of place in the living rooms of art lovers. Now, when people commission a painting, he says, they ask for a size that suits their drawing rooms and not their puja rooms. “What more can an artist ask?”

The denizens of the city will get ready to welcome the elephant god into their homes next week, and Bala Bhakta Raju is gearing up for his solo exhibition at Art Café in Taj Krishna.

“Every year during Vinayaka Chavithi, I have a display of my works. This exhibition will have 30 works of Ganesha and will be held from August 30 to September 15,” he says.

Bala Bhakta Raju's repertoire encompasses 1,450 Ganeshas (in different media) and the artist is hungry for more. “My dream is to paint one lakh Ganeshas,” he signs off.

Keywords: Lord Ganesha