the Ganga Waterfront


Manav Gupta


India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, India

January 15th, 2015 to April 22nd, 2015

A Game Changing Solo Public Art Project in India

Extended by Public Demand






Units of Pottery

Manav Gupta Public Art Installations Excavations in hymns of clay waterfront India Habitat Centre

"transforming the familiar into something completely unconventional, unexpected and magical."

Sculpture Magazine, July 8th, 2020

the Making

Bringing a river to the heart of the city.

The process of making public art – its creation in the encompassing challenges, and the breakthroughs achieved.

The Plaza Steps at India Habitat Centre is an important architectural element in the central space at the institution. Pictured below. The artist embraced this space with his ‘game changing’ installation and ‘experiments of thought’ via his creation to bring about a significant transformation of the space infusing fresh energy and innovation into the ambience and matrix of the area and the people who visited as a record turnout of over a hundred thousand footfalls.

‘As the IHC is a fully functional operational space housing multiple institutions, corporate offices, cultural entities, conference Halls, exhibition venues and functions, the first challenge was the creation of the site-specific giant artwork in all its propensity and vastness of labour intensity in a single night and to take it to a reasonable state of completeness by the next day’s office hours as that was the time mandate available. No provision of pre storage facility was available so two truck loads of material clay pots and chillums had to be transported so that it could arrive and be unloaded only after 10 pm as per permissions available..

Weaving of thousands off diyas and chillams into strands had taken a month in the studio. No fixtures of nailing etc was permissible on the walls, so one had to carry weighed boulders and hanging mechanisms that could take the highly substantial load of the clay units and provide stable hanging mechanism to support the flow of clay river and rain glazing along the walls.

The first few strands of rain along the wall, “the fall of the river’ were dropped from the scaffolding behind the wall and the river began its course. Meanwhile I deployed a major part of labour force to first spread out the clay lamps piece by piece as per my concept of the river flow along the staircase. so that the basic structure was understood by the workers. There were no blueprints as always. I have never created any layout plans or structural drawings or even rough sketches of the painting that I make, It has always been directly done with brush and paint on paper an canvas. Here too I was creating a river on an architectural space directly on the walls and stairs the contours of the space as a huge giant canvas of 60’ x 45’ x40 ‘as if I was painting it on the walls.

It was freezing cold of early January in Delhi with temperatures running really low. The entire Plaza steps had been washed and cleaned before the diyas could be laid out. And I along with a small motley group of workers were laying out the diyas on the extremely cold floor diya by diya, we had lakhs of them to be laid out for the river to take shape as I had visualized. Every single diya had to be manually inverted and placed in basic formation as the river tributaries I had imagined. Each diya had to be joined with the previous one without any glue or tape or any fixative.

That night was a grueling night indeed. We had hardly slept for a few hours the previous few weeks weaving the chillums and diyas at the studio late into the night. But this night afforded not a moment to bat an eyelid. As dawn approached, I had gone and arranged triple the worker strength for the task at hand be ready to meet the first light of dawn with some readiness towards the basic groundwork . Grateful to the security staff who helped me find worker communities close to IHC, in the dead of the night, in that cold, who may be willing to come and add the extra hands to us at whatever price. I was confident we would do it. Motivating the labour which were complete strangers to art and its processes was a nonstop all-night effort. The lines of Tagore’s poem that I had interpreted as a poem long while ago reverberated all through – Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.

And then we saw light. The first rays of the sun caressed my river. It was divine and a moment of catharsis for the night. The day was to be long and as challenging in meeting the timeline but the course of the river , its length and breath had been laid out. I called in another shift of fresh workers for the day.

For me the contours, the flow, the lyrical movement of the river was most important. It was an organic, gentle, ethereal clay river with which I was embracing the walls, the space, the architecture. I never intrude, with my installation, but gently aid the flow of the space with energy of art. I always invoke the Gods for any artwork. I feel I am the medium only. And if the dedication is strong, the blessings of the Supreme Creator shall see it through. By evening the divine sun rays lit up the river and its ripples and waves.

My task in right earnest was sculpting. Mostly by hand , once the diyas were inverted and laid out in formations of flow that I was directing, I began to sculpt the river. Each contour was for me sacred in achieving the gentle ripple or flow or wave as the river does – that was paramount. No worker could do it. It was my task – the pilot in the box. I had to create how I paint. And I started parting and rearranging the diyas on the river bed the way I would paint it with brush on the canvas. I was going one stroke after the other.

I had to step back and forth away and close as the large canvas took shape. The perspective and composition of the whole artwork was as important as the sculpted details of ripples and waves.

I had seen the walls as mountains. The river (Ganga) right from Gangotri was descending down across the mountains. I addressed the topmost level once the basic middle and lower levels had been given shape. It was the higher mountain peak. And brought in the variation of using diyas there for the fall as compared to the fine flow of chillams at the next level. The strong robust flow of gushing power from the source like the open hair locks of Lord Shiva versus the gentler flow below.

Finally, the river happened. It happened like it belonged there since time immemorial and forever. The walls were mountains and the staircase the plateau and slopes till the river reached the plains at the bottom of the plaza steps. Here within the heart of the city, using clay , I created the flow of water. Inverting the earthen lamp as metaphor of earth – a water droplet. Several earthen clay cups joined together without any fixative to form a flow of the river Ganga. As dusk arrived, streams of people were stopping by. The trickle of inquisitive and curious crowds that started in the morning had been swelling into a sea of people all through the day as word spread around. Amazed at how diyas (that everybody uses for a different purpose), were reimagined by an artist into a river as Ganga they kept asking me so excitedly, deeply understanding how art can influence in imagining something that never existing so far. It reconfirmed my belief that intelligence of masses (always underestimated by many) is of a very high order. If given the right creative stimulus, people can feel what art is trying to communicate. The very kind and generous admiration and appreciation that was coming from all stratas of people was a nourishing reassurance for my movement of taking art amidst the masses.



Inaugurated by Esteemed Smt Uma Bharti, Honble Minister of Water Resources, Govt of India.

at the Waterfront

Excavating Ancient Indian Philosophy.

I sought scholars and experts in Vedic philosophy to have discussions and dialogues at the Ganga Waterfront on sustainability practices highlighted in our ancient texts and vedic scriptures that were practiced by our ancient civilizations.

One such intense discussion in progress at the waterfront as I invited Pandit ji to share his knowledge.

Power of Thought Experiments

‘And how it happened. On a cold winter night of January, I saw two dried-up pots with barren twigs lying idle beside the Plaza steps for the gardener to uproot them and replant another plant. I asked permission from him to use these two pots as props at my installation and he kindly agreed because once set up, there was no way the gardener could pour water on it everyday. I didn’t want to kill a plant, so decided to make do with the dried one. I used both pots as metaphors of rocks to carry out the role of river pouring over stone within the story; And sculpted a flow of earthen lamps on both as two island rocks on the river over which the river would flow. No glue, no gum held them. That’s when I decided to carry out the exercise of ‘Giving the Power of Thought’ to one potted dry twig and leave the other one as it is. The 'river' and 'stone' stood the enormity of many a violent storms and odd weather. Without the plant being watered, the 'river' of clay poured on 'stone’. And each day without fail, I gave one potted plant the power of thought about it being nurtured by thr river and its nourishing waters.As thought. And by spring, the one that was given the thought of love and nourishment, blossomed; green leaves sprouted, blossomed in that pot - not one or two leaves but a nice bloom of spring! God and Devil, both are in the details. And when its dark, the sound of the river glistens as it pours, making silhouettes of light with the rock. The leaves, blusing at night - with colour of fresh newborns and glistening in the sun stand testimony to the power of thought that can let miracles happen.’ Excerpt from ‘the story of the river…’ – Manav Gupta



Engaging with all Stakeholders of Society

Media | Bibliography

Minneapolis College of Art and Design, President’s Lecture Series : Manav Gupta , November 12, 2015 BLOUIN ARTINFO, Manav Gupta at his musing best , April 14, 2015 May June 2016 | India Perspectives | MEA MAGAZINE, GOI Taking art beyond boundaries | Maverick Genius. June 30, 2016 The Hindu  “Khorshed Deboo ,  Breaking The Mould” – artist Manav Gupta articulates how objects of clay can be adapted to address environmental urgencies. June 30, 2017 | INVITATION | PRINCE OF WALES MUSEUM | Museum Society of Bombay and Prince of Wales Museum invitation lecture, ‘Excavations in Hymns of Clay’ takes place today at the CSMVS auditorium, Fort, at 6 p.m. July 06, 2016 | Indian Diplomacy Twitter Web India | MEA | Ambassador Of India’s Soft Power. July 07, 2016 | The Times 24 | KS Rao & Team | Ambassador Of India’s Soft Policy Manav Gupta has showcased Indian Pottery. August 10th, 2016 | Hi Blitz | Volume 14 | Issue 9 | Cover Feature | Manav Gupta- A President’s Artist On the Waterfront. Hindustan Times, Eco-friendly: Art goes from earth to earth, April 10, 2015 Matters of Art, Exploring the Holy Ganges in Clay, March 15, 2015 The Pioneer, Message in Clay, December 23rd, 2015 Public Art Review, Manav Gupta repurposes local pottery, Issue 53 : Leading the Way | Fall/Winter, 2015. Forecast Public Art, Weaving spirituality and environmentalism in public art, November 11th, 2015 The Indian Panorama, From Ganga to Mississippi , January, 2016 August 4th, 2016  Architecture Update Volume10 | Issue 7 | Allegoric Innovations | Manav Gupta | Installation Art – Manav Gupta has reinvented the language of clay with true originaility of thought. October 23, 2016 | NAWRAS  Mohona Banerjee  “Enigmatic and thoughtful with a wry sense of humour, Manav Gupta is a prolific artist who is set on deconstructing art perception. His enthusiasm and refined conception of art makes it evident why he is one of the leading contemporary authorities in the art-world.  Outlook, Excavations in hymns of clay, June 1st, 2015. Millennium Post, Exquisitely etched in clay, April 21st, 2015. The Statesman, River of ClayApril 2, 2015. Deccan Herald, Magnificent Public Art Installation, April 2015

President's Lecture Series: Manav Gupta

The President’s Lecture, Minneapolis College of Art & Design, Minnesota, USA | November 12th, 2015

He’s been called the “maverick genius” by his critics. According to insiders, Manav Gupta is piped to be the next big thing in international art. One of India’s most erudite and versatile contemporary artists, Manav Gupta has reinvented the language of clay by infusing true originality of thought and treatment in the humble produce of the potters wheel. With works sold by Christie’s, Bonham’s, Philip de Pury and in several private, corporate, and public collections, he is widely exhibited around the globe. Recently Manav executed perhaps the two biggest solo commissioned artworks originating from India in the past few years: a world-record, five-floor, ten-thousand-square-foot mega mural at the corporate giant Airtel’s headquarters during which he invited thousands of employees to come and experience painting with him; and an Indo-Bhutan friendship mural of twenty-foot-high canvases in Bhutan. His passion for public art is long standing—a striving of the thought and belief that embraces and explores the juxtaposition and dichotomy of the universality with the exclusively isolated, the iconic and iconoclastic.

Ritual River

Sep 1, 2015 | Forecast Public Art | Public Art Review | Issue 53 (fall/winter) | Repurposing local pottery to showcase environmental issues.

For his work Rain, the Ganga Waterfront along the Time Machine, Indian artist Manav Gupta reused thousands of earthen cups. The installation appeared on three continents in 2016. Photo courtesy the artist.

Manav Gupta at his installation, Rain, the Ganga Waterfront along the Time Machine. Photo courtesy the artist.

Detail from Manav Gupta’s Rain, the Ganga Waterfront along the Time Machine. Photo courtesy the artist.

In “Rain, the Ganga Waterfront along Time Machine,” a river of clay objects streamed across the steps of the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi in early 2015. Previously installed in South Africa, the latest in Manav Gupta’s Excavations in Hymns of Clay series calls attention to the use of global resources, makes a nod to spirituality, and references the relentless power of water. The installation is slated to appear in the U.S., Europe, and Southeast Asia in 2016.

Flowing across the architecture en masse, pottery poured over the steps, embracing the staircase like water and, according to Gupta, “denoting the symbolism of the passage of time as the river flows.” The pottery also offers a metaphor about how we use resources like water: “Taken for granted. Anointed when needed. Only revered when in use,” says Gupta. “And after its purpose is served, discarded and thrown and another one bought to serve the desires of the soul yet another day.”

A poet, painter, and filmmaker as well as an installation artist, Gupta says the Time Machine in the title recalls “the mechanized lives we lead without respecting sustainable living and resources.”
Gupta draws attention to resource use by choosing as his raw material diyas (earthen lamps), chilam (clay pipes), and kullar (earthen cups). Purchased from poor potters at roadside stands, then used for prayer, these vessels have historically been used only once. According to the artist, the humble cups gain meaning through worship and to this day are still discarded after use, “to be immersed in the Ganga.”

While a dip in the sacred Ganga is still seen as a purifier of sins, a river of disposable clay vessels speaks to how we choose to use (and sometimes misuse) the earth for our own purposes.

Is It Mere Water Or Holy River Ganga?

April 14, 2015 | Blouin Art Info



Ganga Water Project Along The Time Machine by Manav Gupta
(India Habitat Centre)



If you believe

I lie wrapped in a heap of nothingness

Unsung, Unlit, Unheard

Till the end of time.”


That’s Manav Gupta at his musing best. Forever challenging his comfort zone even in the physical world, Gupta has created another work of art to marvel at. Thousands of earthen lamps are placed inverted along several rows and chillums hang from the wall down the columns to create an illusion of the Ganga waterfront. When dusk falls and the area is lit up, one can almost hear the sound of the waves.


Titled “Rain, the Ganga Waterfront Along The Time Machine” from the series “Excavation in Hymns of Clay”, the installation represents a waterfall wherein Gupta has used the Ganga, the revered river in India, as the idiom and earthen lamps and chillums as metaphors to draw home the point: “If you consider me sacred, I am pure, else mere water, it flows.” Gupta says it’s the maverick inside him that inspired the project. The installation is on view at the Plaza steps at the India Habitat Centre where people can engage with it, understand it and absorb its calm.


The most striking thing about the installation is the optical illusion that Gupta has succeeded in creating with the earthen lamps and hanging chillums. The architectural engagement of the pottery with the walls where it is placed transforms the regular venue into a riparian landscape. “The architectural engagement of art with space and construction is something which is a matter of concern for me and is very important for art to belong there,” says Gupta. According to the artist, the earthen lamp and chillums have a negligible existence and are discarded once used, and so is the case with the Ganga and other natural resources that mankind uses and discards with alarming nonchalance.

Ganga to Mississippi

Jan 22, 2016 | The Indian Panorama | Eminent artist Manav Gupta’s Art Project connects USA with India

A first of its kind Indo – US project is being initiated by one of India’s top ten eminent contemporary artists, Manav Gupta, that builds multiple linkages at different venues in the USA and India between the countries and the people via the great and sacred rivers of India and the USA and their waters, through art. The global project engages different other art forms as well as people from all walks of life, with the river of clay waterfront, created with the quintessentially Indian potters produce, engaging with cutting edge installations and signature paintings, with America’s people.

Connecting the River Ganga with the River Mississippi, through the signature ‘umbilical cords series’ paintings that have been auctioned by Christie’s, Bonhams’ ,Philip de Pury and by deploying the humble Indian potter’s produce to form avant garde cutting edge installations series “excavations in hymns of clay”, the project stands to serve as an excellent tool to spread awareness on earth’s precious resources specially water and sustainable living through “healing of the rivers” with an engagement of people with a ‘little of their heart, soul and mind space‘ ;besides building bridges between India and USA through the unique first of its kind conceptualization and idea of ‘Ganga to Mississippi” that it brings with itas the humble contribution of the artist culminating from the two decades of his experience of taking art beyond art to seek consciousness on environmental issues through his paintings, Public art, collaborative, performance and may other art initiatives beyond boundaries between nations and beyond just himself.It strives to reach new heights in a first of its kind initiative ever as an engagement with the Mississippi and the people of the land by the Indian artist via dialogues through art and literature, dance, music, poetry, theatre in a language that is contemporary, a vocabulary that’s global, art that’s avant garde as well as first of its kind in deploying Indian pottery to create cutting edge large scale art and a concept that’s as unique as its universal.With the New York Consul General of India organizing a grand preview of the project exhibition at the Consulate, the artist is working hard towards a run up to World Earth Day on 22nd of April 2016 in New York followed by multiple chapters of the project shaping up at multiple venues in different cities.

What They Say

The artist has beautifully drawn attention to one of the most important resources and topics like water, climate change and sustainable development with his first of a kind deployment of using our quintessential Indian potter's produce and sustainable materials

Smt Uma Bharti

Minister of State, Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Govt of India

Congratulations on a wonderful and inspiring work of art that takes into account nature, the human spirit and the best of India-so beautiful!

H.E Richard Verma & Dylan Verma

US Ambassador to India

Water and clay are the two eternal constants of life. We are in the danger of running out of water unless we preserve it. Let us hope Manav Gupta is successful in reminding us of our responsibility to respect water and eart.

Lord Meghnad Desai

British-Indian Economist and former Labour Politician.

Manav has penned his thoughts as reflected in his works. They depict deep philosophical emotions and they touch a chord with nature and life.The purity of the environment is as essential as the purity of the soul within.The silence of his works have one’s mind and thoughts in that direction. It is for us to understand his message. We have to love the earth. Congratulations Manav for a work well done!

Dr Yogendra Narain

Former Secretary-General, Rajya Sabha. Former Defence Secretary of India. Former Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh.

A wonderful meditative poem on sustainability. I love it. Thank you Manav.

Dr David Bradley

DFID, British High Commission

A very interesting, evocative and engaging display of the river Ganga, through its various ebbs and flows.As we launch ourselves to clean and purify this life-? Which is a part of our history, present and future,this tremendousinstallation of art of Manavji will inspire us to accomplish the task soonest possible.

Mr Satish Mehta

Former Ambassador, Director General ICCR, Govt of India

Ganga, powerful, inspiring, thought provoking, provocative, game changing, life changing- captured in poetry, painting, sculpture, prose in real life- and now beautifully by Manav. Remarkable indeed.

Mr & Mrs K V Rajan

Former Ambassador France, United Kingdom, United States

Manav Gupta's 'Hymns of Clay' is truly a spectacular piece of original art whose creativity is further enhanced by the fact that it is wholly Indian in inspiration and con? with few such parallels anywhere in the world in terms of magnitude and the mass use of the potter made Bharatiya inverted humble diya!

Pavan K Varma

Former Member Rajya Sabha, Former Indian High Commissioner to Bhutan

Highly immpresive use of potter's artefacts to create this" clay cascade "-a waterfall and flowing river made up of everyday objects.Well done , Manav-and looking forward to more.

Dr Shashi Tharoor

Member of Parliament, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

Excellent innovative work,using such simple things. Good wishes.

Ms Anjani Kumar Singh

Chief Secretary, Govt. of Bihar, Govt. of India

Creative use of very everyday clay objects- and the message of low carbon footprint is very significant!

Ms Manjari Nirula

Delhi Crafts Council

An outstanding creation in a genre hitherto unknown in India. My sincere congratulations.

Dr Prodipto Ghosh

Chief Secretary, Ministry of Forests and Environment, Govt of India

Enjoyed the cascade of diyas and the waterfall & serenity of the installation. Very well thought out & crafted.

Mrs Kiran Nadar

Chairperson, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art

Very evocative-a wonderful message. The Ganga may disappear by now 2305 if we go on with business as usual - Climate change! Well done.

Mr Kamal Meattle

Chairman, Paharpur Business Centre

Manavji is one of the most innovative and creative artistsnof the world. Our country is proud to have such great ambassadors like him.

Dr. Atul K. Chauhan

CEO, AKC Group of Companies

Absolutely 'BEAUTIFUL'-….the Ganga frozen in time!

Radhika Birla

Absolutely stunning! Love the ripples… makes the river come alive…. congratulations on your brilliant work Manav!

Salonika Meattle Aggarwal

A truly remarkable artwork by a truly remarkable artist. May the light of the Ganges spill over the whole world in the days to come. Wishing you all the best.

Vedanta & Shivani Varma

Awesome expression of energy. Congratulations!

Mr Samiran Gupta

Former Head of Policy, X, South Asia and India

The journey of life, the flow of 'Ganga'. So intrinsically magnifically and beautifully depicted here is the brainchild of an artist par excellence. What an imagination! Second time I've come to admire this ageless creation.

Ms Shubha Rajan

Director, CII (Confederation of Indian Industry)

A unique and fluid installation. Wonderful.

Jyoti Sarwal

Founder, Amba Foundation

Expression of true inner self has been nicely dipicted by Manav for cleansing our ownself first through Natural Environmental controlled thoughts. Best wishes and success to Manav

Vikram Hyd

Truly innovative and unique rendition of art in our midst. Your use of clay and the echoing of the river is great. Yet the reality is sadly far away. Art must trigger the change we need.

Dilip Cherian

Hope is beautiful'is in one line how I would describe your work.The moment I saw your work,my attention diverted my direction . Thank you for producing hope. Great work!

Shivani Basnet

First contemporary art seen in New Delhi… Hope to see more of you!

Thibault Devanlay

Senior adviser to the Co-chairs | European Union

Very delicate and powerful at the same time.

Ileana Citaristi

Eminent Italian Dancer

It can create an awareness among people regarding the significance of conserving water by treating it as an asset, a gift of nature-excellent art.

J. S. Lee

It feels like a sea, like a waterfall, like a thought, spreading out, branching out and enveloping the world, the life with human spirit and love.

Aarti Tiku

Ex-IANS, Times of India, Hindustan Times, United Nations, BBC

Extraordinarily beautiful! You can literally feel as if it’s a river -made with diyas & chillams! Wow!

Poonam Saxena

Journalist, Hindustan Times

The installation reminds me of earth. The use of clay and water is brilliant. You connect life beyond borders. Keep it up. Best wishes.

Aaditi Isaac

Editor Correspondent, Times Group

Great piece of art…creative. Natural and unimaginable. That Ganga can be dipicted this only an artist. an emotional & sentive artist can visualise. Keep it up. Look forward to more such creations.

Rajkumari Tankha

Co-Founder, Life & More Media


Saurabh Tankha

Former Editor, The Pioneer

Incredible Creativity! A fabulous tribute to the soul of India, Ma Ganga- the life source of India brought alive by Manav Gupta's amazing imagination and interpretation.

Late Mr Chandan Mitra

Managing Director, The Pioneer

Very creative and exudes awareness about water and the environment

Late Ms Gitanjali Aiyar

Renowned Anchor, Doordarshan

Great work!

Ms Santosh Mehta

Journalist, Hindu, Deccan Herald, The Statesman

Very outstanding and inspiring creation. Om.

Nirav Joshi

Senior Reporter, ETV News

Brilliant. Moving.

Late Mr. B N Goswami

Indian Critic and Art Historian

Ganga Shiv er jotaar theke nebe aashche - tomaar ei installation ta dekhe shei kotha mone porche ja aami porechilam amader school er boitey.

Sakti Burman

Eminent Artist

A work of power and imagination!

Manasij Majumdar

Eminent Author


Frenny Billimoria

A marvellously imaginative use of this interesting space with echos and resonances that rumble from earth to the skies. Great job Manav!

Arshiya Sethi

Never seen anything like this. Beautiful and innovative.

Preeta Chandran

Absolutely divine creations! Holy Ganges right at our doorstep!!

Anita Dua

Monumental (Squared)

Raj Kubbar

How wonderfully organic & innovative. Missed you by a whiska. Congratulations!

Ritu Kumar

The only words that spring to my mind is "awesome". Amazing is the only way that I can describe your works of art!Please keep up the good work. You are truly blessed and an exceptionally talented artist!

Arun Bedi

Saw an amazing form of art. To what heights can an artist's imagination rise-is at display here. Bravo Manav

Rajeeve Kaushik

So innovative and original, breath -taking!Surely going to send my school students to experience such an awesome display of the river Ganga and the message that it conveys. Well done Manav.

Indira Kohli & Rajiv Kohli

to take charge of a space
and create;
infuse it with new thought,
energy and vibrance,
Redefine it.
and then leave,
in such a way
that you leave
the space abundant,
replenished, nurtured,
revitalized, contributing more
than taking away,
and leaving it in a way that leaves
no pollution behind
but a legacy of creation
and positive addition
that brings new meaning and memories,
that create a legacy of value –
this was/is my simple message and thought,
my endeavour and vision,
my purpose of public art practice
as an artist and a human being.