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 !
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. 😀
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.