The fourth day of the waxing moon according to the Hindu month of Bhadrapada is celebrated as Ganesh Chaturthi. The festival is eventual of its kind, as it brings together people of all religious communities together. The insurrection of the Ganesh idol at homes is the customary practice. The celebrations reach culmination with the immersion of the idol in water. In fact, the hidden meaning for the immersion and dissolution of the idol in water represents the succession of creation and dissolution in nature. Over a period of time, bit by bit, the rising of community idols has become a steady practice. In the beginning years, clay was used to make Ganesh idols. This practice continued for many years. But over a period of time, the advent of Plaster of Paris (POP), which is the cheaper material with multipurpose uses, made it possible to carve the idols attractively. Besides, the idols made up of POP are also less in price.
It could have been up to scratch with the POP idols if there were no such ritual procedures of immersion of the idols in water. However, the main problem lies in the immersion of huge idols in water for the reason that POP contains various toxicant chemicals such as gypsum, sulphur, phosphorus, and magnesium. Also, the dyes used to colour these idols contain similar poisonous chemicals. The root cause of many ecological ramifications lies in such a ritual practice of the immersion of idols involving the non-biodegradable or toxic materials.
There is no doubt that everybody loves to adorn Ganesh idols strikingly and have a good time of Ganesh festival with great fervour. The toxic waste from the materials used in the idol, after its immersion, kills plant and animal life in the water bodies.Nowadays, there has been no limit to the quantity as far as the erection of community Ganesh idols is concerned. In cities like Hyderabad, we often see two to three Ganesh Pandals just within a distance of 100 meters or so. I wonder why these many idols are required at all. My observation makes me believe that in the purview of many people, it is more a matter of pride and prestige to erect a community Ganesh idol.
In this self-impaired world, on a war foot, so much has been talked about the sustainable development — the unifying principle for meeting human development goals while at the same time sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem. Our wisdom lies not alone in considering very big issues for the sustainable development, most minuscule things like celebrating Ganesh festival with eco-friendly idols would also enable us to become stakeholders in achieving sustainable development. Accordingly, without harming the environment and other living beings, we can celebrate the Ganesh festival grandly. Following are the ways to reduce the environmental smash up from Ganesh celebrations:
- Just prefer to use Ganesh idols made of easily dissolvable natural clay, natural fibre, recycled paper, or any such similar things;
- As far as possible, avoid synthetic paints and prefer organic colours to paint the idols;
- Use biodegradable material for decorative purposes that need to be mandatorily immersed in water along with the idol;
- Prefer to immerse the idol in a specially earmarked huge tub. Later, the dissolvent along with the water can be used in the personal gardens, thereby achieving the most.
- At some places, people use a metal or stone idol. They allegorically immerse this in a bucket of water, or even carry it in procession to the sea, hold it under the water, and then bring it back home. It’s rather a good practice indeed. The same can be promoted by the mass media channels to bring awareness among the masses.
- Have concern for the lakes and ponds; and as far as possible avoid immersion in the major water banks since they lead to smudging of mud, which ultimately leads to a drop-down in storage capacity.
- Last but not least to mention here is avoiding using loudspeakers which cause disturbance to the people at work.
By the use of eco-friendly Ganesha for the looming Ganesh festival, we not only become stakeholders in the sustainable development but also become the part of Swatch Bharat!
– Dr. Suman Kumar Kasturi