“Young Men with Ganesha on Ocean Beach”, by S.H.Godbole, watercolor, Pune, circa 1930
This is an idealised version of a Ganapati Visarjan procession. This is one of several renditions on this theme Godbole made in the 1930s. It is unlike any such procession that has taken place in Pune or Mumbai at any time in the last 100 years. This is Godbole’s own vision that he obviously cherished very much. It shows no crowds hovering around. It shows only a small group of youth playing on musical instruments and dancing ecstatically. The line is very simple, spontaneous, almost like a caricature. But the mood is one of total involvement. All you see is bare bodies and flying dhoties. There is no pretense at showing anatomical accuracy or virtuosity of technique. Yet the artist is successful in communicating his vision of an intimate emotional experience. It is reminiscent of early Bengal School of Art such as seen in Kshitindranath Majumdar, Jamini Roy and even some early Rabindranath Tagore paintings. What is noteworthy is that this artist sees that the artist’s contribution is in presenting his aesthetic visions rather than only depicting realities we see around us. It takes certain courage of conviction to harbor such an ambition which is seen in Godbole’s art in plenty. Another unorthodox feature about this painting that is noticed is the obviously androgynous quality that the bodies and souls of these Ganesha devotees exude. Godbole’s grandson Artist Mumbiram has mentioned that the image of Ganpati that the men are taking to the sea is a remarkably accurate rendering of a wood carved idol that Godbole had in his collection.