Mumbai Lens: The painted tree

Roadside shrines are a common sight all over India. They can be anything from a tree, to a stone with eyes painted on it, to small stone idols placed under a tree, to a framed picture of a god or a holy man/woman, a cross, a grave of a pir… In my experience, the concentration of such shrines is the highest in cities, and Mumbai is no exception. I am no longer surprised when I come across them in the most unexpected of places; I do, however, get surprised only when I don’t see any.

But today morning, I came across a shrine that surprised me, stopped me in my tracks, made me have a good look, and then come home and write about it. Do let me tell you more about it.

I have been having some work in the Gandhi Market area, near King’s Circle in Mumbai this entire week. Once my work is done, I walk to King’s Circle to take a bus home. It is a short walk and I pass three well-maintained roadside shrines to reach my bus stop. The sharp contrast between the well-maintained and clean shrines and the squalid dwellings of the pavement dwellers who look after the shrines is what I have been noticing day after day.

Today, I noticed something else as well at one of the shrines – I saw that the tree trunk of one of the shrines was painted. And how !

Roadside shrine, Mumbai, Matunga, Ganesha
The painted tree

The artist has very cleverly used the natural contours of the tree trunk to paint a Ganesha on it and the result is a painting that has a 3D effect (please don’t judge the painting on the basis of my photograph). I was left feeling amazed at the ingenuity and creativity of the artist.

I was also left wondering how I had not noticed it before. It took me a while to realise that the painting is visible only at a particular angle. When I asked around at the nearby tea and sugarcane juice stalls and the residents of the pavement dwellings about the identity of the artist, nobody seemed to know or even care. While one person said, “Somebody painted the tree at night and when we came in the morning it was done. Maybe God himself did it”, another said, “Why does it matter who did it? It was an act of devotion.” The people actually seemed surprised that I wanted to meet the artist !

This morning ‘darshan‘ made my day and I just had to share it with you. πŸ˜€

PS: Have you seen something like this before? I would love to hear more about it and please share about it in the comments section.

21 thoughts on “Mumbai Lens: The painted tree

    1. And what a sight that painter had for the tree. My work in the area is not over yet I pass this tree at least once in a day. I never cease to be amazed each time I see it. πŸ™‚


  1. Yes! I remember it when quite a few times, I passed near King’s Circle, I was struck but too busy to get a proper dekkho. Thanks for refreshing my mind with Mumbai memories on this work of art:)


  2. Ooohhh how innovative is that…we had a banana plant in our locality whose one of the flowers grew in form of Ganpati..for about 10 days, there was aarti everyday and even vendors selling stuff around that tree…until the flower open and the banana babies were seen! now no one even looks at that tree 😦


    1. Poor tree ! I find it fascinating how we seem to find divinity in almost everything around us, and yet have no qualms of abandoning it, once there is a change. Contrary to what the BMC claims, there is a rise in roadside shrines all over Mumbai. I see new ones sprouting and old ones getting some kind of a structure.

      Still, the painted tree is one of its kind. πŸ™‚


  3. This is so beautiful and so creative. So many such unsung artists. Thanks to you. Atleast we can appreciate this work of art. Loved it. πŸ™‚


  4. I’ve put this up on my Fb page because, as I say there, it’s another wonderful example of a talented person who improves and/or brightens up our lives – and no one knows their name.


    1. Welcome to “My Favourite Things”, Jane. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting and also sharing it on your FB PAGE.

      And, of course, the real thanks goes to the unknown artist who has brightened our days with his/her art. Hope to see you around here πŸ™‚


  5. No, I haven’t. But even if I had, I wouldn’t have noticed it the way your eyes pick out such unusual works of art, Sudha. The Ganesha indeed has a 3 D effect, thanks to the artist’s ingenuity.


    1. It all boils down to perspective and interests. I’m sure that you would have noticed something that I missed. As for the artist, what more can I say that he/she is a creative genius πŸ™‚


  6. How often have I not seen a splash of water on the floor, a stain on a wall, or indeed a cloud in the sky and seen a figure in it, but done nothing more than daydream? This artist obviously has greater vision and also skill to go further to create a Ganesha in the tree. Great artists do have that vision. Michael Angelo created The Pieta thus. He saw the figure of Mary carrying Jesus in the veins of the marble. He got rid of the unnecessary bits to reveal the beautiful figure.


    1. Imagination and the ability is all that one needs to see something different from the prdinary. I am always amazed at how sculptures emerge from blocks of stone or paintings from blank canvases. It has to be seeing something beyond the obvious !

      Liked by 1 person

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