Every year beautiful pictures of the Ganesh Utsav celebrations are followed by dreadful pictures of the day after the visarjan. Broken and tormented idols of our beloved Lord Ganesh are seen lying amongst garbage on the beaches. Doesn’t it break our heart to see the pollution on the beaches and state of our God? All this is the result of our joyous festival? One thing that bothers most Indians who live abroad is why are these beautiful idols not eco-friendly? Despite the availability of eco-friendly idols and awareness campaigns regarding the harmful effects of POP idols, why are the people supplied with inorganic and pollution inducing Ganesh idols? Is this going to repeat this year too? Here’s an insight of what exactly happens in India during the grand Ganesh Utsav.
The process of making Ganesha idols
The sculpting of Ganesha idols starts way before the actual festival. At least 6 months are needed to create an inventory of the idols which are sold in the market during the festival. These idols are mostly made from 3 different materials; POP, Shadu (natural clay) or Paper mache. Apart from POP, all the other materials are biodegradable.
1. Shadu idols
This is the material which was traditionally used to make Ganesha idols. Shadu idols that are made entirely from natural clay and cause no pollution. In comparison to paper mache and POP, they dissolve the fastest in the water. In fact, their natural properties are not harmful to the marine life as well. But sculpting Shadu idols is a difficult and a tricky task. Also, these idols are not as fine and decorative as the POP ones.
The 3 main factors responsible for the unpopularity of these idols are price, durability and weight.
Shadu idols are brittle. In fact, even while making these idols they break a lot and hence the time consumed to create these idols is much more than a POP idol. They are also 3-4 times heavier than the POP idols.
2. Paper mache
Paper mache idols are made by crushing paper and then a specific technique is used to give desired shape and toughness to the idol. It’s not entirely eco-friendly if it has the white ink powder used for an even white coat on the idol. Recently, idol makers clarified that the paper that they use for the paper mache is treated to remove harmful ink. Still, the remains from the paper mache tend to settle at the bottom of the water surface which can be harmful to the marine life. In comparison to POP, paper mache idols are a great choice even with their small flaws.
3. POP - Plaster of Paris
POP idols are made from Gypsum which is generally used in buildings and construction. Gypsum is very difficult to dissolve and also makes the water hard and is extremely harmful to the marine life.
Pop idols are very attractive, cheap and lightweight.
If chemical free colors aren't used for decorating any of these 3 idols types, high amount of toxins like mercury, zinc oxide, lead, and chromium are immersed in water along with the idol. Chemical based colors are extremely harmful to the marine life. These colors affect the food chain directly as the fishes consume the leftover idols.
Existing scenario in India
Most Ganesha idols are made from plaster of Paris. Despite bans imposed by the high court on the sale of Ganesha idols made from POP, last year only 2% eco-friendly Ganesha idols were found. In fact, in areas like Karnataka where the ban was strictly imposed, the sale of Ganesha idols altogether went down by almost 70 % since an eco-friendly Ganesha idol costs 5 times more than a POP idol.
This huge price difference is because of the effort and time needed to create eco-friendly idols. In a day, a sculptor can make 50 POP idols but only 5 eco-friendly idols. Lack of availability of Eco-Friendly Ganesha idols is a big issue on its own.
Importance of this Sarvajanik festival
Ganesh Ustav, started by Lokmanya Tilak, was originally a social festival that holds a special place in everybody’s heart. Bringing people from all communities and backgrounds together for a happy celebration was the need of society at that point of time.
Unlike Diwali, there is no burden of buying gifts or new clothes for their family during for this festival. A family can celebrate in the presence of a Ganesha idol alone.
Is it not obvious that the middle-income group or lower income group (which actually is the largest in number) would select an idol which does not burn their pockets?
The joy of bringing lord Ganesha to their home is too expensive if they buy an eco-friendly idol. Many people who buy POP idols understand its negatives and would gladly select an eco-friendly idol if it was available to them at an affordable cost. Unfortunately, such a provision is not made available yet or people are not aware of it. Also, many belonging to the Indian and NRI community don't know where to buy Eco-Friendly Ganesha idols from.
Who is responsible?
Ganesh Visarjan of 2017 witnessed a shocking 2033 metric tonnes of garbage in Mumbai waters following the immersion process of the Ganesha idols. Along with the sad pictures, news and statistics about pollution also traveled all over the world. India’s image gets tarnished because of this environmental mayhem created at the time of Ganesh Utsav. Instead of pointing fingers, it is high time for all of us to take responsibility for the health and cleanliness of our beloved India.
Is there a solution?
Until now, the Eco-friendly idols which were available in the market were either too heavy or too fragile. A new revolutionary Ganesha idol making process now exists that can enhance its durability, reduces the weight and improves its biodegradability. A mixture of Shadu and Paper Mache is much stronger than POP. Idols made from this material are very light weight. Moreover, it takes just 6 hours for the idol to dissolve completely in water. With these eco-friendly Ganesha idols, we can take one step forward towards an eco-friendly Ganesh Utsav.
Small practices like eco-friendly decoration and visarjan at home will also make a big difference. Creating awareness about the need to buy eco-friendly idols is also necessary along with helping the skilled and the rare artisans who make these Eco-friendly Ganesha idols.
Source: Free press journal
The way forward
Bodhishop.in has come up with a solution for the global distribution of these Eco-friendly idols. A secured worldwide delivery is now possible. Thanks to our shipping partner, DHL.
Bodhishop.in not only aims to solve the issue of where to buy Eco-Friendly Ganesha idols in USA, UK, Canada, Dubai , Australia but also from anywhere in the world where our NRI community resides.
DHL has promised us that they will take special care so that these Eco-Friendly idols reach safely and in a timely manner to your homes during this year's 2018 Ganesh Festival.
Become a host or replace a POP user
Alternatively, We have also started an initiative by which those who don’t host Ganesha idols in their homes can also be a part of this festival. Everyone residing out of India can be a part of this celebration in India by buying Eco-Friendly Ganesha idols for themselves or for Indians in India. Every idol you pay for will go to a family which cannot afford an eco-friendly idol.
Slowly but steadily, the scenario will change. People will become conscious about the use of materials used for a Ganesha idol. Such a change cannot come around in a day. But we can start in a small way. Let's start a movement where we take a step forward to replace one POP Ganesh idol user at a time.