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Worship with a difference

Worried by ecological impact of immersing idols after the 10-day festival, several families are doing without them, reports Soubhik Mitra.

india Updated: Aug 22, 2009 01:08 IST
Soubhik Mitra

Information technology consultant Swapnil Parab’s shopping list for his household Ganpati puja includes decoration materials and flowers. But not the idol of the lord itself.

The 28-year-old would be breaking a 15-year-old family tradition this year at his Thane flat. The family will use the marble idol of the elephant god installed at home.

“I don’t want to add to the pollution by buying an idol made of Plaster of Paris. These idols release hazardous mercury and cadmium metals making out lakes and seawater toxic,” he said.

Many like Parab now accept that saving the environment is a priority over custom. Vasant Kathe, a retired government servant from Dombivli, would worship the household metal idol that he has.

And, use betel nut (supari) as a prop to make offerings that would be immersed on the last day of the five-day annual affair.

“It is high time we became responsible. Celebrations should not be at the cost of harming the environment,” said the senior citizen.

Last year, about 1.6 lakh idols — some up to 25 feet high — were immersed in city lakes, creeks and the sea.
Rituals of the puja are also being improvised by these people to save the environment. Parab has made a paper pulp-clay idol just for the immersions, an integral part of the puja.

The family would immerse it in a bathtub or a fish tank. “I am spreading the work among friends. Soon people would stop buying Plaster of Paris idols completely,” he said.

Around 100 people have enrolled in an eco-Ganpati making workshop organised by Enviro Vigil, a Thane-based non-government organisation. “The response was impressive. People are becoming eco-sensitive,” said V.A Walavalkar, a founder member of the NGO.

In certain households, however, older generation is not happy with the modifications. “My parents insists on PoP idols since the eco-friendly idols are not as attractive,” said Abhisekh Madwaikar, a businessman from Malad. He added, “I have convinced them to visit people using eco-friendly Ganpati. Hope that works.”

To help people observe Ganapati celebrations in the eco-friendly way, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is setting up 84 artificial immersion ponds in the city. Among these, 50 tanks will be especially used by the small and community level pujas, for immersion of smaller idols.