Ganesh is the elephant-headed Hindu god of wisdom, success, and good fortune. He is one of the most popular Hindu deities whose birthday is celebrated during the Ganesha Chaturthi Festival falling between August 20th and September 15th. This god is hugely popular, and is prayed to before starting important things such a new job or even before writing school exams!
Ganesh has a long trunk, big ears, and a large pot-bellied body of a human being. His four hands each hold a symbolic object. In his upper right hand he holds an elephant goad (rod) which helps remove obstacles and be steered in the right direction. The noose in Ganesh’s upper left hand helps to capture all difficulties. His lower right hand is used to bless his devotees. Finally, a modak (sweet rice ball) or a lotus flower is held in his lower left hand, as a symbol of human evolution and joy.
Several months before the Ganesh Chaturthi celebration, beautifully decorated clay and plaster models of Ganesh are made by artisans. They are used to decorate homes and local communities throughout the festivities. We will be making a clay model of Ganesh. Now that you’ve learned a bit about this god, why not see if there’s a celebration in your community, so you can experience the festivities first hand.
Making the wooden bases does involve tapping into your inner carpenter, but they really are worth it, and great for making all kinds of sculptures. I went to Home Depot and bought a 2″x 4″ which was 8 feet long and had them cut it into 6″ pieces. I know, you’re probably thinking what to do with so many of them, but there are certain givens in life: kids love to make things, and they love having friends over to make things. The dowel also has to be purchased in a long length, but you can easily cut that at home with a small saw. You will also need to buy a drill bit for your drill which is the same size as your dowel. Then again, if this is putting you off, you can dispense with the base and plop Ganesh on any available hard surface.
If you are making the base, you will need:
- wooden base (2″x4″x6″)
- dowel (7/16″x4″)
- small saw
- drill bit same size as dowel
- white glue
- safety glasses
No base? Then just these items:
- air drying clay (eg.Jovi, in a light colour)
- masking tape
- white glue
- glue gun
- googly eyes
- artificial flower similar to Lotus
1. Have a look at IMAGES OF GANESH and/or do an internet search to see what Ganesh looks like, and how to position his arms. This will help you design your clay model.
2. Next, make the base. With your safety glasses on, drill a hole into your wooden base. You can center it widthwise. Lengthwise, it should be closer to one end in order to leave room for the legs (see photo below). Add a little white glue and place dowel inside, giving it some time to dry.
3. Use tin foil to create an elephant shape which will be wrapped around the dowel and secured with masking tape if necessary. This foil will be creating the skeleton of your seated elephant (see photo below).
3. Now begin adding small pieces of clay on to the foil to create your elephant shape. This type of clay dries quickly, so work as fast as you can. Make sure to have Ganesh in a seated position, and to give him four arms. If you are not using a base, simply make a seated elephant shape out of clay, and place on a hard surface until dry.
4. When the clay has hardened, at least overnight, you can paint it along with the base.
5. When the paint has dried, use a glue gun or white glue to add the symbolic objects Ganesh holds in his hands: a toothpick in the upper right hand will represent a goad (rod); string or twine can be used to make a small noose (circle with a knot) for the upper left hand; an artificial flower can be placed in the lower left hand; the lower right remains empty. Other decorations can be used such as jewels and necklaces, and don’t forget to add the eyes. All these items can easily be found in dollar stores.
For more information about the Ganesha Chaturthi Festival: