It is once again the time to celebrate Lord Ganesha. And, it is again the time of creating waste. After every Ganesh Chaturthi the cities, towns, and villages teem with piles of man-made superfluity. Plastic and other non-biodegradable idols, festoons, food containers, ornaments and other knick-knacks block the roads, canals, and rivers, and float in the sea causing great harm to the aquatic environment. How could we be so mindless and show disregard for nature while worshipping the spiritual power of the Universe that resides in all of us? How could we forget that Ganesh Chaturthi is essentially an occasion to revere the eternal cycle of creation and dissolution?
There was a time when our celebrations reflected the blessings of nature. The food, decorations, presents, clothes and everything were in harmony with nature and from nature. Whatever was left over would either be stowed away or disintegrate without causing any environmental hazards. People respected nature and every action reflected that sentiment and sensibility. It is about time we claimed that tradition of veneration back and remodeled our celebrations on a very eco-friendly way. So, this Ganesh Chaturthi, let us make a change and take the first step in saving nature and eventually saving ourselves and our progeny from potential disasters.
Let us start with the decorations. These days, the elaborate and highly bedecked pandals are more of a status symbol than a place to gather for worship. So, if you are spending a fortune on that marquee, invest in the right things. Instead of using plastic and thermocol, why can’t we go for the greener options like real flowers and paper festoons? Here are some items you can use to make a nature-friendly Ganesh Chaturthi pandal:
- Fresh flower garlands and bouquets
- Colourful leaves and branches; palm fronds are the best and the cheapest.
- Paper lanterns and flowers
- Cotton or other natural fibre fabrics
- Bamboo or cane frames and structures
- Oil lamps and diyas. After all, that multi-colour illumination set is power consuming. You may end up paying huge electricity bills or diesel price if using a generator set. Try to get some of those antique lamps with coloured glass shades. They are sure to add an enigmatic and traditional touch to your pandal at night.
The Ganesha idols are probably the most hazardous element of the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. After the immersion ceremony, they are everywhere; half-immersed, never immersed and thrown away statues sending out toxic chemicals into the water, air, and soil. The materials used to make the idols, the paints, and the clothes and ornaments are all harmful to the environment. Rather than buying those plastic or plaster of Paris idols, opt for the clay and paper pulp version. Wood, cloth, coconut, and cane statues are also plenty these days. Unbaked clay and paper statues can dissolve in water while the baked clay, wooden and cane versions can be used for a symbolic immersion and then stored away for next year.
Drop in at a pottery shop or village and get an unpainted unbaked clay statue. Now get some natural dyes and paints like charcoal, chalk, turmeric, beetroot, red cabbage, indigo, coffee, tea, etc. and paint the statues using your imagination and creativity. Get your children to help you make the paint from the natural raw materials. This is going to be an exciting science class for them and an occasion to get closer to nature. If you are the more experimental type, buy some natural clay and make an idol all by yourself. Plenty of DIY tutorials are available on the internet for the non-artistic type. Who cares if your Ganesha is a bit off the symmetry line! It is the spirit that matters and the satisfaction that at least you are not choking Mother Nature.
Don’t throw away the materials after the celebrations. If they can be reused, clean and dry them properly and store them packed. Fresh flowers and leaves can be used to make compost. If there is surplus food, distribute it rather than dumping in garbage bins or on roads. Use artificial immersion tanks instead of public water sources.
These may be small changes, but the impact they make is really huge in the long run. So, this year let the auspicious occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi be the time to adapt to a real spirit of nature and make it a lifestyle for the rest of your life.