Mumbai’s most famous Ganesh idol sculptor no more

Vijay Khatu, the sculptor well known for creating Mumbai’s tallest and most decorative Ganesh idols, died on Wednesday morning following a heart attack. He was 63. From the popular Mumbaicha Raja in Lalbaug’s Ganesh galli to Chinchpoklicha Chintamani, Khatu’s Ganesh idols were the most sought after.

On Wednesday, his body was brought to the Central Railway Ground in Parel where Khatu ran his workshop every year for four months before the Ganesh festival. “Last night he was here till 9 p.m. working on the arch of the idol that has to go all the way to Kolhapur,” said Dilip Sawant, Khatu’s manager for the past 28 years. “About 80% of the work was done. He was giving the final touches to most idols,” said Mr. Sawant, still reeling from the shock of Khatu’s sudden death.

Khatu picked up the art of sculpting from his father who made small Ganesh idols for homes. But Khatu became popular for making life-size idols that were in demand by most popular mandals. “The body structure of his idols, the eyes and the positioning would be so realistic that a devotee standing beneath felt the presence of Lord Ganesh. That was the beauty of his idols,” said Mr. Sawant. He added that the positioning of the ashirwadi haath of the idol would look like the Lord was showering his blessings on devotees.

Praneel Panchal, core committee member of Chinchpokli Sarvajanik Utsav Mandal, famous for its Chinchpoklicha Chintamani, said the beauty of Khatu’s idols surprised people every year. “He would envision the chintamani himself and we would be awestruck when we saw the completed idol,” said Mr. Panchal. He added that their idols were always seated on a throne and were 21 feet tall.

Khatu considered Dinanath Velling, a well-known artist who earlier sculpted the idol for the Chinchpokli mandal, as his guru. Velling was the first to attempt a 22-feet-tall idol for Ganesh Galli in 1977, a tradition that Khatu took forward. In the 1990s, Khatu made the famous Lalbaugcha Raja idol for two consecutive years.

Artist Santosh Kambli, who now makes the Lalbaugcha Raja idol, says that Khatu mastered sculpting the idol in various poses. Mr. Kambli said, “He was undoubtedly best artist in the State who sculpted the maximum idols. He was also known for his creativity.”

Khatu’s famous idols included a 22-feet-tall Ganesh on a swan and a 23-feet-tall Ganesh carried by Lord Hanuman.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 12:33:21 PM |

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