Ganesh special series: Rithvik Dhanjani reveals how he makes his own Ganpati idol

By Dhara Vora Sabhnani

TV star Rithvik Dhanjani speaks about going green and the joy of making his own idol for his favourite festival

Rithvik Dhanjani works on the clay at his Malad home. Pics/Sameer Markande

For television actor and host Rithvik Dhanjani, memories of celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi in his hometown, Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh, is something that he will cherish for life. "I did my schooling in Dubai, and our yearly break would always fall around Ganesh Chaturthi. I would extend my leave and stay back to celebrate the festival. We used to keep the idol for 11 days, and would create new décor for each day.

Roaming around with my desi friends, going to people's houses to collect 'chanda', the process of selecting an idol and bringing it home with a dhol procession — I just fell in love with the sense of community bonding and fun that would be part of the festival. We would dress up as Hanuman or a joker and entertain visitors. Once, when I was about 10, my friends convinced me to wear a bear costume and dance in front of the idol for visarjan, across the city. Halfway into our route, my costume tore waist down, and I had to dance like a fool with just the mask on," recalls the TV actor, who has been bringing an idol home for 17 years.

Rithvik Dhanjani

Dhanjani is so fond of Ganeshotsav that he would celebrate it with pomp and fanfare, thinking it would please Bappa. But with time, he decided to change the way he celebrates, and started opting for eco-friendly idols since 2015. But he wasn't happy with that either. "Even the eco-friendly idols that we get here are sometimes made using mixed materials and synthetic colours. I realised that it's causing so much trouble to the environment and society.

So last year, I connected with my friend [actor] Raqesh Bapat, who has been making murtis for about eight years. He taught me and it's the second year now that I have been making my idols," he says, while shaping one at his Malad home.

First brush
Dhanjani reveals that he has never pursued an art form, but was hooked to clay sculpting. He insists that if he can do it, anyone can. It takes about four days to finish an idol if you dedicate a few hours to it daily. "It was an achievemen; I was proud of myself for the first time. My dad was taken aback as he never thought I could do this, and my mom was happy. When it finally came to life, I loved the feeling.

Rithvik Dhanjani with his mother Asha

Plus, it's therapeutic — I can keep doing this for hours and finish it in one go too. I love the feeling of doing something I enjoy, and of the fact that I am mindful of the environment while being religious. Even if I manage to convince four people to adopt this technique, I would have succeeded in doing something nice. In a way, you feel that the idol is a part of you since you have created him," shares Dhanjani.

More the merrier

the final idol before it gets painted
This year, Dhanjani convinced his friend and actor Karan Wahi to make his idol. Actor Tejasswi Prakash also connected with Dhanjani about joining in, and the trio, with Bapat's help, managed to finish their idols in time for the festival. Dhanjani even got soap czarina Ekta Kapoor to consider making her own idol. "It's not rocket science. Plus, it benefits the earth in the long run. Just squeeze in a couple of hours from your schedule for a few days. Trust me, it will change the feeling and the meaning of this festival," Dhanjani signs off.

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