(Image courtesy: Flickr/Sandeep Achetan)
(This effort was also carried by the Hindu: http://www.thehindu.com/society/when-your-actions-speak-how-much-you-love-your-city-and-care-for-the-environment/article19587578.ece)
As a society, we equate size with quality. Bigger the better.
This belief has even come to our faith and our festivals.
Take the Ganesh Chaturthi.
In countless households across India, families welcome Ganesh into their homes in the form of a clay idol on the Chaturthi (4th day) of the Bhadra month in the Hindu calendar. The clay idol is adorned with a Erukku flower (Calotropis Gigantea) garland and usually with a grass garland as well. He is then offered modaks, or kolakattai – both sweet and savoury. These modaks are filled with jaggery and coconut for the sweet and with dal for the savoury.
(Image source: Flickr/Satish Krishnamurthy)
After a few days (it varies by location and community), he is taken to the nearest water body and immersed in the Visarjan festival. In earlier times, there was no waste – the offerings were eaten, the decorations fed to the livestock, and the Ganesh idol dissolved. Only the warm glow of memories of the festival remained.
In today’s size-obsessed society, Ganesh idols are large Plaster-of-Paris giants painted in lurid colours. Visarjan is a grand spectacle in many Indian cities. Processions pass through cities, grinding traffic to a halt.
(Image source: Flickr/Chetan Gole)
Finally, the Ganesh idol is worshipped and immersed in a water body – a pond, a lake, a river or a sea. Clay idols dissolve. Plaster of Paris idols do not. After all the pomp and grandeur, Ganesh is abandoned.
(Image courtesy: Flickr/Saurabh Chatterjee)
The thing to keep in mind is we can have our fun – the pandals, the private celebrations, the processions, the song, the food, the laughter – without harming the environment or sacrificing the idol’s dignity. We don’t have to give it up. We should not give it up. The secret is to treat our Ganesh in keeping with our ethos. As Hindus, we believe in the circular nature of life. Our Ganesh should reflect that.
This thinking, gave rise to the seed Ganesh. Our seed Ganesh is made of pure clay, and filled with a ball containing our own compost embedded with seeds – tomato, tulsi, neem – and fashioned into a charming Ganesh. Many establishments across different cities have begun to popularise this concept.
(Photos courtesy: Sundaram Climate Institute)
You can welcome him home and worship him. Then, when Visarjan comes about, you take him into your garden or balcony garden and pour water over him until he dissolves.
(Photo courtesy: Sundaram Climate Institute)
(Image courtesy: Sundaram Climate Institute; we tested out our first seed Ganesh earlier, and got our first sprouts a few days later)
A true tribute to the circular nature of life and far more dignified farewell for our Ganesh. The icing on the cake is that our already over-stressed water bodies are not further polluted.