Vinayaka is a regular visitor at Sudha Ragunathan’s house

He is present in all shapes and sizes in Sudha Ragunathan’s vast collection

Published - September 06, 2018 03:32 pm IST

 Carnatic vocalist Sudha Ragunathan standing in front of a showcase in her house that displays her Vinayaka collection

Carnatic vocalist Sudha Ragunathan standing in front of a showcase in her house that displays her Vinayaka collection

A showcase lined with Vinayaka icons attracts the visitor to Sudha Ragunathan’s house. The God of Auspiciousness is there in all shapes and sizes. “Yes, he loves my house,” laughs Sudha. And adds, “If I may say so, because he has a knack of finding his way here in the most unexpected ways.” And it is not just the showcase. Ganesas are stationed at every nook and corner adorning table tops, niches and stairways. “It is as if his benign gaze is following me all over the house. I like it,” says Sudha.

“Well, I was always a collector,” informs Sudha. “Stamps, Enid Blyton editions, keychains of various countries and of course coins. Vinayaka happened simultaneously,” the vocalist thinks aloud. She remembers the Pillaiyar Chuzhi. It happened at a friend’s house. “Prema Viswanathan had a huge Pillaiyar collection, the like of which I had not seen before,” recalls Sudha. “The tamboolam I was given had a small sandalwood Pillaiyar. He was the first in my collection,” she says. With the arrival of a few more, Sudha’s interest was piqued. She started looking for his images. “I would buy simple and small statuettes, not too expensive, made of soapstone, say. And I looked for images when concerts took me places — Pillaiyarpatti for instance. So the collection grew and then I found Ganesa figures literally walking into my house.”

The array has Ganesas, size ranging from that of a finger nail to two feet. They are made of all kinds of metal — bronze, brass, copper, silver, gold, semi-precious stones, Malacite, coral, crystal, jade of different shades, lapis lazuli and so on. A cupboard had to be made, followed by another and both merged later. The bigger ones, which could not fit into the showcase occupied vantage spots in the house. “He has made himself our Guardian Angel,” she says.

Maintaining the icons must be a challenge. “It is an annual ritual,” says Sudha. “And it takes all of a week — removing the icons, cleaning and restoring them on the shelf in such a way that each is visible. Everybody pitches in ,” she elaborates.

Guzzles milk

Sudha’s mind travels back to a year when there was an excitement about Ganesa drinking milk. “We selected a Mazhalai Pillaiyar from my collection and placed a bowl of milk and spoonfed him. Believe me it vanished. Perhaps the gravitational pull that day was the cause,” she recounts the episode. “I find Mumbai very special in this context,” she says. “I get something unique every time I go there. They have such variety and colours.” According to her Myanmar’s Ganesa version and Nepal’s skeletal form are distinctly different.

Close to her heart, however, is the Sayana Pillaiyar, which was presented to her many years ago at The Hindu quiz. “Heavy, at least 15 kg, He is reclining in my drawing room, watching the visitors, listening to the chatter that is happening there. He is like a friend,” she says.

“I never miss the kutcheri during the Chaturti festival at the Balavinayaka temple on Warren Road, Chennai. That’s a commitment I have honoured for many years. It’s like thanksgiving for choosing to fill my house in so many avatars,” she says.

Is she still collecting Ganesas? “I’m not in a hurry to expand my collection. I prefer the divine ones to those with a hightech tweak — say him playing cricket, looking into a cell phone, driving a swanky car. So it takes time. May be when the numer reaches 1,000, we’ll celebrate it in a fitting manner,” concludes Sudha.

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