Last year during Ganesh Chaturthi visarjan , Ritu Shah , a resident of Bengaluru, saw many people,in the name of visarjan,throwing Ganesha idols, without showing any respect.It did not go down well with Ritu and her husband.”People purchase pristine,spotless and beautiful idols, for 3 days they take utmost care,do puja and then on the 4th day they go out and dump it with disdain”, says Ritu.
Amidst all these, they also noticed that most of the idols were made from PoP(Plaster of Paris) and covered in artificial chemical paints.Ritu along with her husband started to think about this issue, which arises every year.They found out, people were not aware that they can even immerse the idols at their own house after doing puja.So, they started the awareness campaign with a dual motive of not only popularising clay ganesha but also its disposal techniques.
Ritu and her husband went to Narayanapura, a village near Bengaluru and identified five families of artisans who were pretty good in making eco friendly idols.They partnered with these artisans .”People are too lazy to go to villages to buy the idols,so,we thought of procuring the idols ourselves from the villages and selling it to the people”, says Ritu.
“But our main motive was only to create an awareness and not to earn money from it”,says Ritu. “There are already many people who sell clay Ganesha Idols,so,our main aim was not only to provide eco friendly Ganesha idols , but also to make buyers aware of the visarjan process – that they can immerse the clay idols in their own ponds or tanks or in a bucket of water,which can later be used for watering or growing plants,to symbolise the cycle of creation and dissolution in nature.”
“Every year after the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations, devotees not only clog water bodies across the country by dumping millions of PoP idols, but also make them inhabitable.PoP idols are very harmful for our environment .They are not considered as eco friendly.The Idols made out of PoP contain harmful chemicals”, says Ritu.
PoP Idols contain toxic chemicals like Gypsum,sulphur,phosphorus and magnesium and are painted with chemical paints which contains mercury lead and cadmium.When the PoP idols are immersed in water bodies , they make the water bodies toxic , and make them unfit for living organisms.The increased toxics in water destroys marine life and leads to harmful bodily health problems.
In days of yore,devotees used to make Ganesha idols from the clay procured from their own backyard.But after the advent of PoP, this became a preferred choice, since PoP idols are cheaper, less fragile, easier to transport and come with multiple sizes.PoP idols are also a preferred choice for sculptors, because they are not only cheaper to produce due to easy availability of synthesized plaster of Paris, devotees too prefer them because of their trendiness,intricate design and details. There is also a dearth of skilled clay artisans.Clay craftsmen make around 10 clay idols per day whereas PoP craftsmen churn out around 30 idols per day.The mould rate for clay idols are at a higher side as compared to the PoP idols.So,most of the sculptors prefer PoP over clay.
Last year, Ritu and her husband, were taking orders directly from their own website and were shipping the idols pan India .Though they were successful in their attempt , they had to spend a lot on the packaging and also incurred heavy losses on shipping. So,for the time being they have limited their sales only to bangalore and have stopped shipping out .They are now selling and creating awareness by participating in flea markets.
We wish Ritu and her husband further success in this noble endeavour, and trust that they will be able to achieve the goal they have set out to do.
And we hope , when you go to the market next year, you will bring home ,an eco friendly clay ganesha and immerse it at your home.