Please note this post is not to insult any individual/religion but reinforcing a core reality about the aftermath of POP effects..
Ganesh Chaturti is one of most colourful awaited festival celebrated around the world. Particularly in India it is celebrated with grandeur. In theory, its exact origins are unknown. We know that it has been celebrated in homes for centuries, and that in 1893, freedom fighter Bala Gangadhar Tilak gave it an unprecedented public exposure.Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival depicting the endless cycle of being born from the earth and returning back to it. Historically construct of clay, celebrate and immersing back into water as intended to dissolve in minutes and become part of the ongoing circle of life.
Unfortunately, the growth of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival has not necessarily been sustainable but devotee celebrations has become more lavish, temples have become grander, renditions of folk songs have become louder, and Ganesh idols have become larger, much larger I would say.Statues that were once constructed of earthy clay are now built using the less expensive,light weight more decorative and less biodegradable plaster of paris(POP). Harmless vegetable dyes have similarly given way to more vivid and more toxic chemical-based paints.
The ten-day long spectacular glorification of Lord Ganesha ends with gaiety amongst the worshippers. Devotees flock to bodies of water to formally bid farewell to the elephant-headed god by immersing physical idols into the sea/lakes/river (Visarjan). A large section of society is unaware of the pollution these chemical-made idols bring to the sea water. It takes several months for these idols to completely dissolve in the water while they continue to poison the water bodies in contact.
In the ardour and splendour of celebrating this iconic festival, we conveniently forget the hazardous impact the immersion of idols has on our environment.People go to sleep after immersion but why don't we notice the aftermath it has created?
I admit, grandeur of this festival is definitely irresistible, but the damage it is creating will be beyond repair eventually! Worshippers have completely blindfolded themselves in the name of religion. They are blatantly ignoring their responsibility towards nature to accomplish their own spiritual motives. Only if we could realize that it is possible to please God without damaging his universe.Many of us are educated enough to understand that rituals and customs are not the commands of God but only man-made principles.
Look around,Indian waters are crying for help. Unlike clay and sandalwood paste, plaster of paris is not a naturally occurring material rather, it is a chemical, which can take years to fully dissolve. In addition, the ornate POP idols contains heavy metals like mercury and lead, which do not dissolve at all. The aquatic plants and marine life have no voices to shout for help but the entire ecosystem is showing signs of damage due to our blindfolded principles.
On the 13th day we read in newspaper/media that the government digs out tonnes of garbage from the water bodies to clean the waters. Not only the idols, but the other accessories including food items used during Ganesh Chaturthi as they get dumped into the sea, adding to the level of pollution in the water.Did you know,POP is not only injurious for the environment but also for the living beings! Unknowingly at few places the same water is pumped to the homes for drinking purposes.Contaminated flowing waters are consumed by animals and birds slowly poisoning and gradually killing them.POP idols are less expensive but they are very damaging as they do not dissolve easily,it gets accumulated as waste in the sea. Its quite disheartening to read how Indian fishing communities often find pieces of once-revered Ganesh idols tangled in their nets, alongside dead mercury-laden fish. Oh, so ruthless are humans.
Technically, the best solution would be outright ban on plaster-of-paris Ganesh statues,therefore bringing the festival back to its organic roots. It is not so much a question of changing written policies and laws, but more one of challenging individual attitudes and societal norms. All it needs is to begin in small way.It needs to begin from you. Devotees can immerse biodegradable Ganesh statues as its more of ritual that has to be passed on to generations.On a personal note, our Ganesha has always remained in the Pooja room and visarjan is sprinkling water/dip in water bucket. however he's favourite place is in our hearts.
It is really heart breaking to see the idol that was worshipped for 10 days and on 11th day it becomes a garbage,lying around,floating on waters,crushed by the bulldozer or thrown away.Its not meant to be that way isn’t?.God gifted us the beautiful world and we ruin it in his name! We as devotees should understand that if we do not respect mother nature then we can never respect God.For the collective sake of India's aquatic life, Bal Gangadhar Tilak (Thankfully he is not alive to see what he had envisioned has turned out to be) and the spirit of Lord Ganesh,Make a pledge-Bring home a eco-friendly idol as you chant Ganapathi Baap Moriya!
Have a blessed Ganesh Chaturti & don't make it Toxic.
PC-free google images