Ganesh Chaturthi is always celebrated with great zeal and fervour across the country, particularly in Maharashtra and Karnataka. And now, in North India - particularly Delhi and adjoining areas, which have a population of around 3.5 lakh Marathis, the festival is gaining momentum every year.
Even non-Marathis have begun bringing the Elephant headed lord to their homes to pamper him and to seek his blessings before immersing the idol.
Appreciably, the festival is also going greener by the year with devotees choosing eco-friendly clay idols over those made of Plaster of Paris (PoP) and chemical paints. With a growing concern for environment and realising that the very idea behind the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi, more and more devotees are coming back to clay idols that dissolve easily into water saving the river from water pollution.
Lolita Gupta, a partner of Eco-exist, which has been making and selling eco-friendly Lord Ganesh idols for the last six years, says, “The demand doubles every year even as though clay is about 25 per cent costlier than PoP idols. People are more aware about the environment than they were some five or 10 years ago.”
PoP contains gypsum, sulphur, phosphorus and magnesium and idols made out of it take several months to dissolve. In the process it poison the water and disturbs marine life causing eutrophication.
The chemical paints used to decorate the idol generally contain mercury, cadmium, lead and carbon which raises the heavy metal content in the water. Dumping of PoP Ganesh idols also blocks the natural flow of water, resulting in stagnation and breeding of mosquitoes besides damaging the ecosystem.
However, besides a concern for environment, its easy availability now than before has made people go for clay idols. Preeti Prabhakar Khate, says, “We have been using an idol made of PoP for last few years because earlier the clay ones were not readily available. Now they are very common. Though it is a bit costlier than PoP, clay is natural and that is the USP of the festival.”
Clay idols are more expensive because making them takes longer and they are also more fragile than the PoP and papier mache ones. So they have to carted with more care. Also, natural colours used to paint the idol are more expensive than their chemical counterparts. “Sometimes people go for PoP idols because with chemical colours, the idol looks glossier but the catch is that these chemicals are not water soluble. However, people are realising that the very spirit behind Lord Ganesha idol’s immersion is the circle of creation and dissolution in nature and are now opting for clay over other mediums,” says Lolita.
Purvanchal Maharashtra Mandal of Delhi says clay idols are not readily available in all parts of the City and hence they procure them from Gwalior. “We always go for clay idol because it easily dissolves in water bodies. We also get idols from Jhilmil colony where Ganesha idols and goddess Durga idols are made. But clay idols are difficult to source per se,” say Prashant Sathe, the mandal’s executive member.
He says Delhi has about 20 to 25 mandals of people from Maharashtra. Each mandal has about 250 members who educate fellow community members to follow eco-friendly ways to celebrate the festival. “We tell our members about the harmful effects of using PoP idols and encourage them to bring clay idols,” he added.