Sunday, 31 August 2014



Eco-friendly Ganesha, a step further to clean civilization

The Ganesh utsav, one of the popular Indian festivals, celebrated throughout the country and its popularity is increased in last few years to the height where no other festival could reach today. The lights, big precisions, Loud Bollywood songs, Disco dances and big chadava and Prasad, what not to attract the god of wisdom.  Over the years the face of this festival changed drastically. I am not sure if those kids who are dancing on Bolly tunes and skipping schools also the adults who are taking off from their offices to be a part of this hullabaloo, even know who started this ganesh utsav and why?

When Lokmanya Tilak was in great distress and worried about our country's freedom. He used to sit at bank of Girgaum chowpaty and wondered how to collect people. While sitting on the bank of seashore he used to make idols and people used to stop by to see it. Such collective movement was not restricted by British. So from there he got an idea to celebrate sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav. He started the tradition of Sarvajanik Ganesha Utsav by making clay idols. That small step Tilakji started took a shape of a movement. And later became Ganesh Chaturthi. The sole purpose of that festival was to collect people and encourage creativity among the youngsters as well as the feeling of nationality. Back then people were making their own Ganesha with hands using clay and naturally made colours from their own kitchen. A natural and pure concept to keep the environment free from pollution.

Along the way the festival lost its glory and became an excuse to play loud music and dance in public till late night without any restrictions. Today at the day of visarjan, there is absolutely no space on roads and traffic delays are common especially in metro cities. Lakes and rivers are getting polluted by thousands of huge POP Ganesha idols merging in water, leaving water full of poisonous chemicals. POP (plaster of paris) which is very harmful for aqua animals and it decreases Oxygen and  PH level of the water as well. What is POP anyways? Its gypsum, sulphur and magnesium. It has harmful chemicals in it as mercury, zinc oxide, led and chromium and these chemicals are responsible for birth deformities, breathing disease, kidney failure, heart problems and skin problems. List is really long.  Then the sound pollution which is unavoidable weather you are interested in listening those songs till midnight or not. Right when the festival was needed to revive, here came a breather.

A Madhya Pradesh based non profit organization Narmada Samagra took the responsibility to get back to the original form of the festival by spreading awareness among people regarding using the eco friendly clay Ganesha and avoiding the POP idols in year 2006. They have been organizing Eco friendly Ganesha making workshops for last 8 years in Bhopal and other cities. It is now when finally this mission taking shape into a movement across the country.  If you look at it, it’s all about the basics, using clay and natural colours to make the idols. I saw and felt the change in thought process of common people when I was in a mall during the workshop, a POP Ganesha idol right in front of the workshop was empty and the eco-friendly one was crowded so much so that it was difficult for them to serve everyone.

A small step towards environment conservation became a huge movement among schools, kids and families. Everyone is thinking of making their own Ganesha with clay for their homes. It feels pure, genuine and worth the effort. I have been to one of those workshops myself to take a plunge in the eco friendly wave. At the workshop those kids who barely knew what exactly is eco friendly, were making trunk and mouse with their tiny hands and to my surprise those up town girls who might never think of getting close to clay or mud, were sitting carelessly on the floor in their branded ensembles covered with dust n clay and focusing on creating a new tradition of making Ganesha by their own hands. Even the government of Maharashtra took this initiative a step further.  The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has urged the state government to promote idols that are made out of re-usable and recycled material such as paper pulp. The MPCB has also suggested a 'one idol, one village or society' project. This will not only reduce the number of immersions but also control water pollution. The state of M.P. is almost completely convinced this simple yet effective idea to save the environment and water pollution. Mandla, Maheshwar, Jabalpur, Hoshangabad and many other cities are actively participating in this movement and arranging eco-friendly Ganesha workshops in their cities. That time is not far when whole society will take part in it and will be doing the Ganeha Utsav with their families in their communities.

The Narmada Samagra organization went a step further  and promoted kund visarjan that is in place of emerging the idols in rivers and lakes in the cities, emerge them in a separate kund specially made for this occasion or simply do it at home in a bucket. That will save the chemicals to get into the water bodies. By doing this we somehow fulfil Lok Manya Tilak’s dream of gathering people and encourage creativity. It’s a need of today’s situation to join hands with such organizations and individuals who are working for the betterment of society, nature, water and environment. Let’s do our bit of environment conservation and give a clean civilization to the next generation.

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