If anyone reading this blog ever makes their way to the Holy city of Varanasi, (aka Banaras) you may enjoy visiting one of the many statue artisans which populate the Ghats along the river.
As most veterans of Indian travel will tell you, statue shops are a rupee a dozen, and their not mad either. Indian image crafting from stone or wood, or clay still thrives all over the country. Almost any image, from a wood-carved pillar of King Ashoka, or a polished marble figurine of elephant, to clay tablets depicting Hindu gods and goddesses, would make an interesting souvenir or gift.
I particularly like the images of gods and goddesses, they hold a lot of character, but after a few month, or even a few weeks of being approached by dozens of street vendors, selling their own images which look nearly identical to the rest, the interest evaporates.
In was a time like this that I was first introduced to Raj Vijay Murtikar, in Varanasi and entered his shop. Vijay is one of many brothers, each who is an artisan and specializes creating images of a particular Hindu god or goddess. Vijay’s specialty is Ganesh, the god with the head of an elephant, and deity of scholars, families, and protector of kitchens. Vijay has made literally thousands of images of Ganesh, through painting stonework, and other mediums, and he is happy to show them to anyone who is interested.
Since then I visit his shop on Asi Ghat every time I visit Varanasi. On my trip I snapped a shot of three Ganesh statues playing instruments, with a Shiva lingum in the back. The arrangement looked like a small concert and I couldn’t resist. Afterwards, after some debating, I bought the middle statue for my room at home. I am very happy with it, and plan to keep it in my kitchen the next time I’m back in the US.