Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated with much pomp and splendour across Western and Southern India. And while the practice has picked up in other parts of the country as well, Maharashtra is perhaps where its soul lies. A festival, which is in parts a religious and cultural extravaganza, Ganesh Chaturthi has its roots in politics as well.
However, over the years, the heralding of Bappa has transcended everything to become the pulsating heartbeat of every Maharashtrian eagerly waiting to scream ‘Ganapati Bappa Morya.’
Havoc On The Ecosystem
Interestingly, however, over the years, Ganesh Utsav is perhaps one of the prominent Hindu religious festivals that has taken on both a cultural and social role in the Indian ethos. As the ecological balance disintegrates in this already populous country, experts opine that the chemical materials and colours used in creating Bappa wreak havoc on the ecosystem.
Slowly but surely, a call for welcoming idols that are ecologically sensitive have turned from a whisper into a storm, so much so that the advent of clay idols with seeds inside that can turn your favorite Ganpati into a plant has taken centre stage in many household pujas.
The British Connection
Veteran actress Himani Shivpuri, known for such iconic cinema such as Hum Aapke Hai Koun…! Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabi Khushi Kabhie Gham, among others opens up on the iconic history of Ganesh Chaturthi in Western India.
“During the time of Britishers there was a restriction on Indians congregating together. Lokmanya Tilak promoted Ganesh Chaturthi to allow people to come together and celebrate being Indians. He knew this is an excuse and the Britishers would not be able to say anything.”
However, the actress, currently a part of Happu Ki Ultan Paltan is all for an eco-friendly approach to Ganesh Chaturthi. “The sheer number of organizations using non-eco-friendly Ganeshas terribly hurt the eco-system. Keeping an eco-friendly Ganeshas is the best way of keeping the balance of nature,” she opines, a sentiment echoed by fellow star Srashti Maheshwari.
“It is an amazing concept because it helps create a pollution free environment. I am a spiritual person and somewhere it hurts me thinking that when we immerse the Ganpati idols they end up going into rubbish dumps.
But with eco-friendly idol, it goes back into become clay or silt and we can even use that to pot plants around the house,” the actress reveals, adding that nowadays with the incorporation of seeds in Ganesh idols, which turn into beautiful plants when potted is a homogeneous way of celebrating the circle of life.
Popular actor Rohitashv Gour would however, like to point at the great sense of belonging that Ganesh Chaturthi creates. The actor says that for his family Ganesh Chaturthi is the most awaited festival and they celebrate it with great zeal every year.
The actor says that it is a great time for the family to bond together, especially after two years of pandemic-induced isolation, stating, “To kick off the celebrations, my family and I will thoroughly clean our house and decorate it with flowers and diyas. My wife prepares 21 sweets for Bappa, later distributed among neighbors and friends. Whatever I have today is because of Bappa’s blessings, and I pray for the health and happiness of my family and those around me.”
Eco Friendly Idols
“We never leave Bappa alone after he arrives home. My family takes rotations to stay awake and care for Bappa in shifts. I have begun inviting family and friends, looking forward to a grand festival celebration after two years.”
For the longest time, Ganesh idols available in the market were made up of non-biodegradable materials. Idols made up of Plaster of Paris and other chemical paints caused environmental damage (they still do). However, over the last few years eco-friendly Ganesh idols have taken centre stage. These are degradable and do not cause environmental damage. Furthermore, people can even make eco-friendly idols within the community or home, helping in spreading satisfaction and congruity in the family and neighbourhood.
As actress Kamna Pathak says, “Piety is what is important I believe,” before adding that Bappa never changes, so shifting for ecologically damaging PoP idols to more eco-friendly variants are the best way to celebrate the festival and ensure a greener future for youngsters.