November 9, 2016
Thanjavur: If one is willing, age is not a deterrent in learning something new or in improving skills.
K Govindarajan, 71, has been making exquisite Vinayagar idols from vellerukku (Calotropis gigantean) root for the past 25 years, though he was originally trained as a Thanjavur art plate artisan.
Govindarajan says that the benefits of offering puja to a Vinayaga idol made of vellerukku root has been listed in the ‘Mooligai Jaala Rathinam’ text, believed to be authored by the legendary rishi Agastya. “With the worshipping of vellerukku Vinayaga idols, many obstacles to a householder disappears,” says Govindarajan.
Those who want to be cured of ‘kalasarpa dosham’, or to fend off the ‘evil eye’, or those who want to build a house are buying the vellerukku Vinayagar idol, Govidarajan said.
Govindarajan learnt the art of making the idols after marriage, from his father-in-law Ekambara Sthapathy, a renowned sculptor. “Sthapathy, who was well versed in constructing ornamental wooden cars for temples, constructed a car for a temple in Jaffna in Sri Lanka and also worked on the famed Tiruvarur temple car,” says Govindarajan.
According to Govindarajan’s son, Navaneethan, 40, who works with his father, the vellerukku roots are purchased from those who pluck them from the banks of Kollidam river. “We mostly buy the vellerukku root during the summer month and dry them. Later, we process them before chiselling the idols. The Vinayagar idols with exquisite carvings are made in sizes ranging from two inchs to one ft”, says Navaneethan. “It is rare to get a one ft high root of Vellerukku; we manage that only once every few years.”
Though the father-son duo make around 10 idols per week, it takes them at least a month to make a one ft idol. Prices range from Rs 200 to Rs 20,000, and the idols are highly sought after at state and national exhibitions organised by the state agencies.
“We mostly market our creations through the state-owned Poompukar and Khadi Kraft”, says Govindarajan. They also take orders from private individuals.
Besides making the Vinayagar idols, the father-son duo, who works from a small workshop at their house located at Raja Raja Cholan Nagar in Vennar bank area in Thanjavur, also makes vellerukku root idols of deities Mariamman and Anjaneyar.
Though they are adept in making art plates, shields and other wooden idols of gods, it is the popular vellerukku root Vinayagar idols that keep them busy.