Clay Ganeshas with enamel paint are harmful too

Colourless Ganesha idols are safer than the ones coated with paint that contains harmful lead. DH file photo

The awareness drives by schools and colleges for the past 10 years about using eco-friendly Ganesha idols seem to be bearing some fruit. 

Schools like JES Public School in Vijayanagar, MES College and Vivekananda College in Malleswaram have been carrying out not just awareness rallies, but also conducting idol making classes and giving away colourless idols. 

Girish, a former student of MES College said, “When we did the rally for the first time, I saw many idols made of Plaster of Paris (PoP). But last year, the number of PoP idols have reduced and colourless clay idols have increased. This only shows that people are showing their concern and slowly switching to eco-friendly idols,” he added.

Prof Sripathi L, HoD, Department of Chemistry, Vivekananda Degree College says that their college has been involved in the eco-friendly drive for the past 11 years. "In the process of making colourless idols, we have removed at least 60% of clothes on the Ganesha idol," he added on a lighter vein. The professor said that this year, they are planning to distribute free Ganesha idols to homes to ensure that people worship only colourless idols. 

However, N Shashidhara from Craft Council of Karnataka says that though the idols are made of clay, the paint is what is bothering them the most. “Even today, the idol makers use colours which have high lead content. Children's toys too are coated with paint that has high lead content. We have been promoting colourless idols and also asking people not to buy colourful dolls for their children,” he added.

Although idol makes have opted for white clay instead of PoP, the colours used on the idols are the same emulsion paints, which are highly toxic not just for the lakes, but even for the makers who fall sick while painting the idols, says Baliram Kumbhar, designer at All India Handicrafts Board.

“My sister's family is involved in idol making in Belagavi and at the moment, they are busy making Ganesha idols for the upcoming festival. They have all fallen sick as they are making at least 4,000 idols and mainly the colourful ones," he added.

Go eco-friendly

 - Buy small clay Ganesh idols — it helps in saving the clay, transportation of the clay from far of places to the city and it is easier to dispose of.

- If you want to make Ganesha colourful, use natural materials like limestone, red soil, royal blue, turmeric powder, vermilion, charcoal, water-based natural dyes etc. 

- Avoid buying colourful idols, which has high lead content.

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Clay Ganeshas with enamel paint are harmful too

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