An impressive 'eye'tinerary

Artist Umesh Pawar has found his passion in painting life-like irises to idols

"Have you ever noticed what is the most striking feature of any idol that is worshipped?" artist Umesh Pawar asks. "You look at the eye. Every human looks into the eyes of anyone s/he is talking to. To gauge their reactions, to maintain the attention." This observation triggered a thought. For the past 15 years, Pawar has drawn life-like eyes onto Ganesha idols. "Worship is but a dialogue with god. I feel if the idols have powerful eyes, that seem to look at you, your prayer would seem like it's been truly heard."

Two years ago, 44-year-old Pawar left his job as a software professional working in Hinjewadi to pursue his hobbies full time. Miniature idols of Lord Ganesh, carved on lead, surround him as he sits at his Kasba Peth residence. In the year 1993, he had finished his Government Diploma with a speciality in photography and embarked on making clay idols of Lord Ganesh. "I tried to make the smallest idol possible. Since then I have made 175 of them and have found a mention in the Limca Book of Records." But, what really stirred his creative center was painting eyes onto idols. "The idol may be four to five feet high or even taller, it is important to make sure that the eyes are in proportion to the overall size. That infuses more life in them. I keep the colour combination in mind, sometimes even taking in customisation demands."

The attention to detail is such that he even replicates the capillaries in the eyes, to make sure that every painting of his is life-like. "Every iris is peculiar, has specific qualities. I strive to capture that whenever I paint." Pawar balances orders from all over Maharashtra, including from the Bholeshwar Ganesh temple in Mumbai. Some demands are also streaming in from old temples around the state. "Earlier, with my job consuming most of my day, people had to adjust to my time-lines. Now I am full-time into this and much more capable of taking in orders. I also hope to be able to exhibit what I have created sometime."

Lord Ganesh is his divine inspiration. "I have even created a liking of Ashtavinayak on rice grains and Ganesha form on a pin head." But his repertoire is not just influenced by religious ideals. Pawar also paints insect eyes and crocodile eyes.

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