For the last five years, a group of mentally challenged and specially-abled women from Mumbai has been making eco-friendly idols as a part of their therapy. For this Ganeshotsav, they have created 70 idols and decorations.
About 50 women, between the age of 20 and 64, from Om Creations Trust at Dr E Moses Road, Worli, use shadu clay to make idols of nine to 24 inches height. The idols are biodegradable, hand crafted and painted with natural colours. The women at the trust suffer from a genetic disability called Down’s Syndrome — a set of physical and mental traits caused by a genetic abnormality that happens before birth leading to low muscle tone and weak joints.
“Since those with this disability have stubby hands and their muscles are not that strong, we thought that this would be a therapeutic move to help them. The women are involved in what they are doing and have a sense of belonging after the experience,” said Radhike Khanna, founder trustee of the group.
She added that people with this disability can get cataract early and develop breathing problems. “We saw that the process helped them focus and develop their concentration, thereby reduce symptoms of the syndrome. Also, since it’s making idols for the elephant god, the group has a lot of reverence for the festival,” said Khanna.
The women also make wall hangings and other decorations that are used in Ganesh pandals.
Garlands are made of natural materials like card paper and cloth. “The hands covered in clay, while making the idol, has a healing experience as it helps the group develop a sense of pride, achievement and joy,” said Archana Mehta, project co-coordinator. “We employed highly qualified professionals to teach our wards techniques of the varied art form when they began making the idols in May.”
Naresh Dahibavkar, president of Brihanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti, said, “We salute the efforts taken by these women. They understand the environmental hazards and are making an effort to make the festival eco-friendly.”
Which idol would you use this Ganesh festival?
Plaster of Paris (PoP)
•Made from Gypsum, which is heated up to 150 degrees Celsius. It is also used for making casts for broken bones.
•PoP idols are the cheapest as it involves little labour – Rs 500 to Rs1,000, depending on the size
•Takes months to completely dissolve in water bodies
•Made of fine particles of silt, generally whitish in colour
•Expensive compared to PoP – 18 kg clay idol costs Rs5,000
•Takes two to three weeks to dissolve, leaves the water murky
•Made out of paper and glue, or paper, flour and water, which become hard when dry
•Soluble in free-flowing water within one-and-a-half hours and stable water in three hours
•More expensive than clay idols – 18 kg clay idol costs Rs5,500
Natural idols (vegetable powder and natural colour)
••Made from a combination of corn powder, spinach powder and painted with natural colours such as turmeric, chandan and geru, all held together by a minimal amount of clay
••Completely soluble in water within four to five hours
••Cost: Rs900 for a nine-inch idol