Last year, Santosh Kambli, the artist behind the famous Lalbaugcha Raja, received flak from quite a lot of devotees for designing the idol sitting on an owl-themed throne. The reason was that a lot of people believe the bird is inauspicious, according to Hindu mythology.
“I always aim to inform people about something related to mythology. Owl is the vahaan (vehicle) used by Goddess Lakshmi, and I just wanted people to be aware about it. But, I am glad that I took this chance because it changed people’s mindset and today you see a lot of miniature replicas of my last year’s idol,” said Kambli.
Pratham Dhuri, an artist working in a Ganpati idol workshop in Lalbaug, seconded Kambli’s statement.
He went on add that around 80% of his customers placed an order for Lalbaugcha Raja idol with an owl theme. He said that he had been noticing over the years that the demand for a replica of the preceding year’s idol is high during the festival.
“Till last year, people were a little apprehensive about accepting an owl into their house, but Mumbaiites have welcomed the bird this year because of Lalbaugcha Raja. Though, conservative Maharashtrians are opting for some other replica of Raja the city people are more liberal in their approach. They don’t think there is a stigma associated with anything. They just take the idol home because it looks good,” said Dhuri.
Sunil Navle, who owns a shop in Kalachowki, is one such devotee who has a replica of previous year’s idol in his store. He brought his idol from Pen, Raigad (a town famous for making Ganesh idols) because he liked how the idol looked.
On the other hand, Capt Parvir Anand, a resident of Powai, who has been getting a replica of Lalbaugcha Raja at his place for the past 10 years, strongly believed that owl is not inauspicious.
“People who believe that owl is inauspicious are illiterates because they do not know that the bird is actually very useful. Its mind is awake 24X7 and has 360-degree vision,” said Anand.
Asked if they visit the pandal every year, Anand said, “Since we don’t get the opportunity to visit there because of the rush, we get a miniature idol here. That way we have our own Lalbaugcha Raja in our house.”