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Alex Steffen, 13 Sep 04

180px-Ganesh.jpgRohit Gupta writes:

This year, in Mumbai alone, the upcoming Ganpati celebrations will see 70 - 80,000 Plaster of Paris idols of Lord Ganesha immersed in the sea as a holy ritual. Thereby, devotees honor their deity, and imply his status as a higher being, free from the temporal idols.

That means that on September 18th, water bodies all over India will get another annual dose of polythene bags, thermocol, plastics, and toxic chemical dyes. Many idols are big enough to require cranes for their immersion, if not scores of human shoulders.

A recent wave of protests from NGOs calls for a return to the traditional eco-friendly method of using bio-degradable, unbaked clay idols, and collective purchase of them. In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where he is known as Lord Vinayak:

"He is taking a new avatar, so to say, that is eco-friendly and in tune with times. Helping take this new avatar are the many artisans in Walajabad involved in the making of Ganesha idols. Around 50 of them are working day and night to make these idols. This year, the idols have been answer to the prayers of environmentalists - they dissolve within a few minutes of immersion and there is less pollution. The main change this year is that most of them are made out of paper mache-tapioca flour-coconut fibre combination."

In Mumbai, the residents and sculptors are responding positively to this welcome change. Some even propose make-your-own-Ganeshas. In the satellite township of Thane, there is already a civic regulation banning the use of plaster of paris idols. In Andheri, where I live, there is an eco-fest this year thousands of people will use eco-friendly idols and worship accessories.

What we really need is a ban across the country. This festival was started only in 1894 during the British Raj, so there is a possibility that one of the politicos might take that suggestion up as fuel for controversy.

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