Sunday, May 20, 2007

Elephant God Magic

Visiting Siddhivinayak is like going to a fair.

The way is lined with little pavement stalls. Sadhus and fakirs stand at corners, selling amulets and charms. There are crowds of people from all parts of India, queueing up, drawn by the magic pull of the Elephant God.
Five rupees can get you this sacred thread
You can buy garlands and offerings on this street inside the temple complex.
At other stalls you can buy colourful images - but none of them are
carved in the likeness of the idol inside, with the trunk curved to the right.
Sweet shops sell modak - Ganesha's favourite food

And where's the rule that says you can't look pretty while you go
see the Lord? Flowers for the hair, very popular with visitors.

Siddhivinayak temple is more than two hundred years old, although it has been renovated and remodelled recently. It was originally built by Deubai Patil, a lady from Matunga, who belonged to the Agris, one of the oldest communities of Mumbai. In designing the idol, i read somewhere that she was inspired by a calendar hanging on her wall - the calendar had a photo of the Ganesh idol at Banganga, which is 500 years old. Whatever the inspiration, there is no doubt that today, Siddhi Vinayak is Bombay's favourite god.

What I like about the temple is its open-door policy.

People of all faiths and religions come to Siddhivinayak.
Unlike some other Hindu temples, no one is turned away. I called the temple office to check if I could bring foreigners. Yes, they said. Everyone can come right inside. And when I checked the temple website, I found that the makhar - the sanctum housing the deity - was built by a Muslim artisan family, known for the intricacy of their work. I wish we had more temples like this!

Inside view of the temple sanctum, with the makhar
Here is what he looks like: black stone idol, coated with red lead (shendur).


Anonymous said...

You have a nice blog about Bombay. Can you post your articles on

Anonymous said...


There are many temples in India which allow people of all class, caste, country, clan, region, religion and language to pray and enter.

I know this Jaain temple in Kutch, which has this muslim family performing once in a week, and they are performing for seven generations now.

These is muslim saint's dargah near Indo-Pak border in Kutch which allows people from every where to come and pray.

I do not have anything against any god or temple, but don't you think that these temples are highly commercialized? VIP passes, passes with different prizes? are we going to movie hall? Why does Amitabh and Aishwariya's family get special treatment to go directly to main temple, and common men stands in queue for hours just to get the glmise of god from some corner at 1 floor of temple.

Most people come here not for the god, but with selfish motive with some wish. People want to become rich, want to get job, want to marry, want baby, and what not.

helga said...

Ganesh is my favourite Hindu God/ symbol and I collect "idols" of him, some clay, some carved wood but also pictures/posters of statues -I don't really like the "sweet candy coloured" ones but more "natural or design"..
After reading your remark about the trunk I compared my collection with the one in this temple and ALL my Ganeshes have their trunk pointing left..and I tried to find why that could be. I found this on a Feng shui page: "If the trunk turns to Ganesh's left, that is the direction for success in the world. If it turns to the right is a renunciation" and now I wonder about this temple here.
Ganesh I like as being the symbolic "remover of obstructions".. but I could agree with Ken's comment that at times the "health and even more wealth" ideal ( also the Laksmi part) is "a demand" (getting rich overnight please)more than the symbolic value I appreciate

Anonymous said...

The idols are very interesting. It has color, shape and form, structure - I adore them for they are man's imagination. I haven't seen this one in person - but the innumberable interpretaions of Ganesha is mindboggling.

Ganesh Chaturthi is insufficient to celeberate the festival. May be we should have Art Galeries celebrate the theme too - Artists'impression of the elephant god. may be a A fair. May be kalaghoda can celebrate this as part of its art festival.

Anonymous said...



I do not believe in Idol preaching, but Ganesh is one god who attracts almost everybody on earth. Interpretations and stories of Ganesh's characteristics are amzing.

Another Hindu go god which I admire is Lord Krishan, I would suggest Deepa to post about him now. :) :)


Anonymous said...

Deepa, Your narration about Siddhivinayak temple as well as the colorful photos are very appealing. India is indeed incredible with so many wonderful things. Thanks