What do Ganesha, Sanjay Patel, The Minnesota State Fair, crop seeds, Shree 420, and Bollywood have in common?

I put myself on full throttle ultra purdah for a few days in preparation for my creation of crop art for the Minnesota State Fair. Crop art is the design of crop seeds in artistic arrangements, and if you’re crop arting for the MN State Fair, the artists are to use only seeds of plants and crops that grow in the state. It’s how city folks like me learn about farm crops from the country. I’ve entered before and there is a time commitment involved in gluing seeds down, and you have to make a sacrifice, and you can guess what I had to sacrifice: Bollywood! But my qurbani, I mean sacrifice, yielded this:

I recreated the image using these seeds: barley, canola seeds, corn, flax, golden flax, millet, oats, safflower, sunflower seeds, and wild rice. You can see my Sanjay Patel inspired Ganesha recreation in person in the Ag-Hort building at the MN State Fair through labor day. I would like to think that some people will do a little puja in front of my Ganesha of seeds.

I found Sanjay Patel’s excellent Ghee Happy website back in early 2007 while looking around for Hindu god images. When I saw Patel’s super cute deities I immediately thought: crop art! If you don’t already have it, I recommend his book The Little Book of Hindu Deities to you. It’s not only adorable, but also a clever, fun, and informative read. How could I choose from the dozens of ultra cute deities to recreate in seeds? I decided since the RNC is coming to Minnesota during the time of the fair, that it would be nice for a very different kind of elephant to welcome that RNC elephant. Maybe Ganesha’s divine energy could help out the Republicans.

I did contact animator extraordinaire, Shree Sanjay Patel, via email to tell him about my crop art and to let him know that I may be infringing on his copyrighted material. It seems that the copyright doesn’t cover seeds, so I should be safe from a lawsuit. Mr. Patel graciously responded to my email and was so very kind. Thank you Shree Patel!

When my Ganesha was completed and delivered to the state fair, I got back on the happy Bollywood train. The first movie waiting for me was the 1955 classic Shree 420. The Shankar-Jaikishan soundtrack is awesome, but I was particularly taken by one song for obvious reasons: Eechak Dana Beechak Dana, picturized on Nargis and Raj Kapoor, with playback singers Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh. The Bollywood universe knew I was heavily dedicating myself to seed work during my purdah and rewarded me with this gem of a tune. Just look at the seed related lyrics!

I know what Nargis is talking about, one little seed, two seeds, seed on seed!

Thanks to Sharikazoid for the video with the English subtitles.

If you’d like to hear it again, Dr. Chadhury did a remix of the song.

I’m certainly not the first to recreate Sanjay Patel’s images. Check out this impressive stuffed Kali inspired by Patel’s image. For further reading of the art of seeds, consult David Steinlicht’s excellent CroptArt.com site as well as Colleen Sheehy’s book, Seed Queen: the Story of Crop Art and the Amazing Lillian Colton.

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30 thoughts on “What do Ganesha, Sanjay Patel, The Minnesota State Fair, crop seeds, Shree 420, and Bollywood have in common?

  1. WOW, Sita-ji, it all looks fantastic! And I’ve been wondering what the “Shree 420″ picture was doing up there, and now I get it… I just watched that film again a few weeks ago, and there’s a reason it’s such a mega-hit: the music is fabulous and I think that Raj Kapoor’s social commentary is very powerful, and still timely to this day. I love that big dance scene on the “footpath”, don’t you? Again, mubarak ho on your very creative and artistic rendition of Ganesha, and yes, it’s just GOT to be of some benefit to the Republicans (in terms of raising consciousness and increasing compassion, that is!)!

  2. jen-ji
    Hello! Yes, it’s an EXCELLENT film. I loved it. Check out Richard’s blog, Rough in Here, since he did a nice post this past spring on the film and its social commentary and how it relates to today, just like you write:


    YES I liked the footpath dance! Every tune was wonderful! I must do a more subatantial post on the film soon. I have some nice screen caps of Nadira, (Maya) who I saw for the first time in this. I LOVED her. So bad!

    Thanks for your kind comments dost. :)

    And of course, phir bhi dil hai Hindustani!

  3. Beautiful artwork Sitaji!!!!! I love the book too, it’s gorgeous and sweet and informative.

    How nice that Shree 420 came along right after. It’s one of the few Raj Kapoor films that I actually enjoyed :-)

    Let us know how your seed art does at the fair!

  4. Memsaab,
    Thanks and glad you enjoyed it. Yes, Patel’s book is marvelous. He also designed stationary with the same themes:




    I loved the film, but I haven’t seen a lot of his movies. I still need to see Mere Naam Joker.


    Have you seen that?

    Unfortunately my entry earned a 5th place, which I dispute. I know what Nastia Luken must feel like loosing to that 12 year old, I mean 16 year old Chinese girl at the Olympics! It’s not fair! ;) There are a couple of weird phenomenon in the judging that I don’t understand. Entries are returned without a score sheet, so the factors that are reported to be what judges are looking for, e.g. carefully placed and pleasingly arranged seeds, seem to not be what is consistently rewarded. They call for a legend, but when I went many weren’t even hung and I had to as for mine to be hung next to my work. That’s the whole point, to let people see what crop seeds were used. DUH! Anyway, I have to believe that some of the judges must have never done this craft, so are unable to distinguish between throwing seeds on vs. thoughtfully placing them. Some artists meticulously place miniture clover painstakingly, while others throw it over glue and I can tell the diffenrece, but I think some of the judges can’t. Additionally there seems to be a premium of left leaning political works, for example, this year there were 3 other elephant themed pieces, I’m sure due to the RNC coming to town, but theses others all either clearly pictured or wrote out messages about elephants defecating, alluding to the mess the party has made of the county. Now I just thought that was in poor taste, perhaps true, but I think a beautiful little seed Ganesha is much more healing. Apparently the judges didn’t agree. I’ve long been puzzled by the judging process. Maybe one day I’ll infiltrate their mysterious cadre to see how they work. In the meantime, I’d sure like a written document of points for works submitted, a score card, as is give in other fair competitions. I’ve submitted other entries that were less work and smaller in size that received blue ribbons and other larger images that were more intricate that received lower places. It’s all puzzling, yet I continue on, like Mother India in my struggle of seeds! I must accept my lot and move on! Thanks for for allowing me to vent. I bet you weren’t expecting THAT as you answer to “Let us know how your seed art does at the fair!” Bas! :D

  5. Nikki!
    Thanks, I hope they like it. :)

    Renegade Eye,
    I’m glad you’re checking that out. Is that booth in or near the Fine Arts building? The Fine Arts building, as usual, had some FANTASTIC work, you know where the real art is. There were some great oil paintings on the right when you walk in, across from some very poignant pieces of the 35W collapse. One of my most favorite pieces in the Fine Arts was titled something like “Charlotte’s Dolls,” an oil of a doll shelf with dolls from various countries. It’s gorgeous and a tiny bit creepy too, fabulous color! Another I liked was called something like “Lost Innocence” a very large oil painting with about an 8 year old girl in the foreground and a sort of Maple Grove suburban sprall home in the background with some kids playing, drawing chalk on the driveway, parents talking in the huge garage, then in contrast is the look on this kid’s face = not all is well is the perfect picture. Very good. I also liked the small oil painting of the older lady in the basement in front of the laundry, called “Lucille in the basement” It might not be Lucille, I can’t remember the name, but you get the idea. After a lifetime of going to the fair, I didn’t discover the Fine Arts or the Ag-Hort or even the Creative Arts building until I was an adult! Prior to this I was lost in the world of Machinery Hill (brothers) all the animal barns and the Midway. Now I like to linger at the Midway’s edge and count hickies and public displays of affection. How about you? What do you like at the glorious fair, the best days of summer as the fair calls it? If you go to the Fine Arts buildng, report back here and tell me your favorites please. Hey, the organization you’re working the booth for has a great online state fair collection here: http://www.mnartists.org/search.do?action=list

    Adab Nawab theBollywoodFan!
    Thank you for your kind words and I’m glad you appreciated the detailing. I think you should be a crop art judge! :) I included this in one of the Ganesha links above:

    I wasn’t going to add the mouse, but then when I read what it symbolizes I had to: desire unless under control can cause havoc, you ride the desire, and keep it under control and don’t allow it to take you for a ride.

  6. An outstanding work of art! I love the depiction of the elephant. It’s majestic, yet humble and approachable. I also admire your restrained but exuberant use of color. And I feel confident that Minnesota’s farmers will feel blessed to learn that along with food and energy production, their crops can also help to satisfy our spiritual needs. Furthermore, perhaps your Ganesha will have a salutary effect on the wounded souls of those Republicans who believe they have been poorly represented by the current administration. Going a step or two further: Maybe crop art-loving neocons (Sen. Norm Coleman?) will learn a lesson or two about the dangers of uncontrolled desire, and alter their policy positions accordingly.

    Congratulations and thanks!

    I’m very sorry that the Twin Cities don’t have their own Indian consulate, for if the Consul General were to attend the Minnesota State Fair and see your work, I’m confident that you would receive a note of thanks and congratulations.

  7. Lovely artwork, Sita-ji. I love your color scheme – the mixing of bright and pastel shades. Its too bad the judges were color- and art-blind. But dont worry, most famous artists never did win awards, either!

  8. Namaste, Sita-ji, and as I stated earlier, I think your creation is imaginative, exquisite, and absolutely lovely to behold: the precision with which you’ve made such a sweet offering to the Universe is really striking and very impressive. Who ever knows why these contests go the way that they do? My first thought was that maybe it was over the judges heads, and I don’t mean that with any disrespect to whomever was judging, but I just don’t understand how they could have looked at your piece and not given it the credit that I thought it was due. I hope you’ll write to the Powers That Be and express your concerns, and that they’ll take your suggestions seriously… And I’m SO glad that you included the mouse: ya can’t have Ganesha without it! I mean, what else is he going to ride on?!

    Earlier you mentioned “Mera Naam Joker”, and I saw it maybe a year (or more) ago and enjoyed it very much. Maybe Raj Kapoor’s acting style, IMHO, is at times a bit overdramatic (kind of like the really old stuff from the 40’s, stylized and theatrical, not at all “method”!), but I think that what he comes up with is always so interesting and quite moving. If my memory serves me correctly, it was Rishi Kapoor’s acting debut, and he’s just such a cutie, and boy, can you see his Dad in him, which is quite fun (I loved “Bobby”!). And I loved the very touching scenes involving the Russian dancer. The movie is pretty grand in its scale but definitely worth a watch. Tonight I’m going to finish “Don”, which I started watching last Sunday night, and had only got about an hour into it when I realized that I could watch “Don” more often than every four years, unlike the Olympics, so even my dearest Amitji took a back seat to Michael Phelps and Nastia Leukin!

  9. brahmanandam,
    Thanks for calling the piece outstanding. Yes, wouldn’t an Indian consulate be a nice touch for MN? I wouls also like to walk up and see maybe Nirupa Roy doing a puja there at the fair.

    Lovely words of encouragement! Sukriya! :)

    Thanks for you sweet words. Here’s one that edged me out, a seed image of Gnarles Barkley, which was very good, though the forbidden thistle seed was used in the collar. http://vita.mn/story.php?id=27140769
    I was banked one year for using it! Outrage! :)

    jen, namaste!
    I loved your comment re Don: “got about an hour into it when I realized that I could watch “Don” more often than every four years, unlike the Olympics, Phelps and Nastia Leukin!” Did you enjoy the closing ceremonies? Like many commentators have said, you really need a totalitarian society to pull off ceremonies on such a grand scale, hai na? Can you imagine how India would kick *** over the Chinese if they were a totalitarian nation? Opening ceremonies with lakhs of Bharatanatyam dancers, closing ceremonies with Kathakali dancers! Action scenes from various movies with one actor vs. 10 men yeilding chains and the one man winning? And the singers and musicians, costumes? China would be embarassed. I feel like the Chinese could “cheat” with all there mysterious methods and subversive post communist antics, so the ceremonies made me suspicious and I feared for the people participating, for if they made a mistake it was probably caught on film then the were carted off to a work camp, or a kidney was removed. Opps, sorry to bring you down! :D
    thanks again dost.

  10. Hi, Sita-ji, and LOL to the MAX regarding your comments about fantasy Olympic Indian closing ceremonies, as well as the creepiness of the whole Chinese state-run thing (as perfectly exemplified by having the girl with the “better” voice sing for the “cuter” girl – YUCK!). So as far as the ceremonies went, I was watching “Don” instead and absolutely LOVED it! It’s just so deliciously dated in so many fashion ways: Amitji’s matching tank top, shirt, and most excellent plaid blazer, for example, and the sunglasses he wore in the opening scene are only to be described by me, out loud, to my dogs, as “bitchin'”, I just didn’t know what else to say! The Kalyanji-Anandji score is lively and fun, HELEN is a dream, Amitabh’s talent really shines, and last but not least, I PRAN!! And he gets definite bonus points for wearing one of the worst hairpieces ever in that film! See it again soon and I think you’ll be transported back to your early teens, as for sure, all of those 70s cop shows will come rushing back to you (think “Police Woman meets “Mannix” meets “Hawaii 5-0″)! Next on my list is my second viewing of “Muqaddar Ka Sikander”, which I thoroughly enjoyed the first time around –

    and p.s. thanks for including the DHOOM 89.3FM link on your site: I have been listening to it the last couple of weekends and am delighted with their programming… and am very curious as to what “Indian style Chinese food” must taste like (one of the many ads; I haven’t heard the “arre, kya khanna” one yet)!

  11. Thanks for sharing, Sita-ji! I love how you find a way to relate all things to India!:) Truly a desi girl at heart !

    I think you did a beautiful job, I would have never had the patience for this! Truly amazing work!:) And I agree with Memsaab, you should have won!

    I would love to take a painting class and try to make some vintage Bollywood pics…maybe fuse some stuff together? Wouldn’t that be cool?

    As for Shree 420, isn’t just one of those films that makes you feel cozy inside? I’m not sure why, but I think its just the whole vibe of the film that does it for me, along with Raj and Nargis, and the songs, more so than the plot itself…

  12. Incredible individual expression I’m totally arrested by your efforts. Thank you so much for showing me and everyone else what your mind sees. Your talents make me very ghee happy.

  13. jen,
    I’m glad you liked my Olympics ceremonies Hindustani ideas. Yes, wasn’t that sad about the little girl being replaced by a visual upgrade. Ridiculous. I need to revisit the original Don again and I will most likely say “bitchin’!” regarding the sets, clothing, Helen, Pran on the tight rope, etc., but to my cat since I don’t have a dog. I’m telling you these pets get a lot of Bollywood! And speaking of bad wigs, check this out if you haven’t already:


    Glad to hear you’ve listened to Dhoom Radio, LOL. Worry not because you wil definitely hear the “arre vay!, kya khanna!” commercial if you’ve heard the “Indian style Chinese food” one.

    Thanks for your kind words and I agree, a class where you’d work on some Bollywood style paintings would be fantastic. Keep me posted! And my answer to your question “Shree 420, isn’t just one of those films that makes you feel cozy inside?” Is YES! I also liked the bad girl, Nadira, and will do a post on her soon. Thanks for stopping in. :)

    AKA Shree Sanjay Patel-ji, (THE Sanjay Patel dosto!)
    You are too kind! I am touching your feet in a gesture of honor, praise, and admiration.
    Your beautiful art makes us all ghee happy Thanks for your visit. I am honored! :D

  14. I went to see your work. Excellent.

    The MNArtists.org booth is in the Education Bldg. It was fun to do that gig. You might want to set up a page on that site. It is connected to the Walker Art Center. You get 25 gigs free.


  15. Oh my stars, that is fantastic! I am truly impressed at how well you combined things that are Indian, midwestern, and crafty (all of which are major features of my own “about me” list)! Superwow!

  16. Hi all, and a special shoutout to you, Sita-ji: did you check out Amitji’s blog yesterday? I thought of you immediately upon seeing his choice of “Ganesha Chaturthi” art! more soon…

    p.s. I’m watching “Muqaddar Ka Sikander” for the second time, and it’s FAB! Music by Kalyanji-Anandji, the same winning combo that wrote for “Don”, so no wonder it’s super super hot! And is it Rekha who plays “Zohra”? Whoever she is, she is gorgeous!

  17. Renegade Eye,
    Thanks for checking that out and glad you liked it. Also appreciate the tip about the website. Good idea. :)

    Thanks for your compliment and visit! Maybe you’d like to consider entering the fair next year! :)

    Thanks for the tip off on Amitabh’s blog post with that cool Ganesha pic. I went right over there to post, thanks to you.

    Lakh, lakh sukriya!

  18. Pingback: Sanjay Patel « The Feliz | blog

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