Festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi, Durga Puja,
Diwali are occasions for great joy and celebrations. But unfortunately they also add an even greater load to our already overburdened
rivers, lakes and seas . Immersion of idols made of plaster of
paris, lime, cement contain toxic substances and silt the water
were the Traditional Practises?
idols were made either with metal or stone which were not immersed
and worshipped year after other. But since all could not afford
these, clay idols came into being. As clay idols can get damaged
easily and keeping disfigured idol is considered inauspicious, the
tradition of immersion started. Originally the clay idols were not
baked to enable them to mix easily with water.
Island of polybag and flowers in Yamuna
due to idol immersion.
Also the clay
contained beneficial things like minerals which when mixed in
river water actually proved to be healthy for bathers ( similar to
decoration on idols used natural substances like chandan / sandal,
kumkum, sholapith, flowers and leaves. Natural colours were used
for colouring idols if at all they were coloured. Even flowers
were not strung on thread but banana stem fibres to enable their
There are other charming practises where devotees only took some
mud or turmeric or flour and fashioned small mounds to
symbolise gods. After worshiping, the mounds were dissolve back
objective encouraging national unity Late Lokmanya Tilak
popularised Ganesh Chaturthi festival. Celebrated as a community
level festival, it served as a mean of creating public awareness
and education through entertainment.
On the whole our
festivals were environment friendly and also encourages creativity
and community integration.
Today idols are being made of substances like plaster of paris,
lime, cement, These do not get dissolved or disintegrate fast and
on settling on the beds, kill the flora and fauna. Even clay idols
are being baked which does not allow it to dissolve in water easily. Moreover,
the chemical dyes and colours being used to colour them
contain poisonous elements like Mercury, Zinc oxide, Chromium and
Lead which even in low concentration
kill aquatic life and have the potential
of causes even cancer.
The decoration on the idols has also turned jazzier with our gods and goddesses being decorated with non-biodgradable and
toxic material like thermocol, zari, plastic....
Just think of the effect when thousands of such idols are immersed
in a limited stretch of
|| water !!!
Along with the idols
also immersed are tonnes of polybags, flowers, earthen vessels,
cloth, coconut and other decorations. Added clay results in
siltation of water bodies while addition of biodegradable and
non-biodegradable materials contaminate the water quality.
On certain festivals
idols were bought at community level and so were less in number. But now each house
has one for themselves. Even at community level, the spirit
is more of competition, with one community trying to out do another by having
bigger and jazzier idols. Some idols are so big that cranes are
required for immersion.
All this is adding a greater load to our already overburdened
water bodies. Our water is poisoned killing the innocent aquatic life and effecting
our health too.
Return to Eco-festivals
Do all our festivals and celebrations have to be at the cost of our
environment, health and life? No! CLEAN-India has these simple, cheap yet beautiful environment and human friendly
suggestions with which we can celebrate our festivals:
- Religiously only metal, stone or unbaked clay idols are worshipped.
- Idols made of metal or stone are best as they can be worshipped every
year. Some people sprinkle a little water on the idols as symbolic immersion.
- If idols have to be immersed make sure they are made of unbaked
mud or clay.
- Do not buy idols painted with chemical colours or those having non-biodegradable material (thermocol, plastic, etc) as decorations.
- Smaller clay idols can be immersed in clean water in a vessel at
home. Leave for sometime and when clay mixes with water give it to
your plants, especially Tulsi.
- Or simply place the clay idols in a potted plant. The clay from the idol will
mix with soil gradually when the plant is watered.
- You can even make idols yourself by using clay or mud from your home.
Or make dough using turmeric
powder or flour and make symbolic shapes
of idols and worship.
- Such idols can be coloured using
natural colours like haldi, chandan, kesar, kumkum, ....
- Flowers and other biodegradable material used in worship may be used for mulching
by spreading them on the top soil around plants or trees. They can also
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