Each year, Ganesh Chathurthi is celebrated with much gusto and zeal. The festival is celebrated all over the country but in Maharashtra, the celebrations are very grand and to the next level. People start preparations well in advance and make sure that Bappa is welcomed in the best possible way. When Bappa is welcomed in a home, the celebrations take place for the next ten days. After this, the idol is immersed in water. People believe that for the ten days that God was with them, he blesses them and when he is immersed then he takes away all their sorrows.
What I fail to understand is that once the festival is over and the idols are immersed, no one – literally no one cares about God. He can be seen half-broken, lying here and there and at this time no one worships him. Moreover, these idols are made with Plaster of Paris and cement, coloured with harmful chemical-laden paints, decorated with flowers and other beads and garlands. Just imagine the amount of muck these create when immersed.
Did you know these facts:
Fact 1: Ganesh Idols are capable of floating in water for over 100 years. The calcium sulfate hemihydrate from PoP not only take several years to dissolve but is also toxic for marine life.
Fact 2: The more beautiful the idol, the more toxic it is. Usually, toxic paints are used to decorate idols, and these lead to increased levels of acid in the water.
Fact 3: These idols are immersed with other pollution causing products. The idols are decorated with jewels, gems, stones, flowers and garlands. So the idol is never immersed alone but with so many other pollution causing things.
One day, after the festival, 38-year-old Rohit Vaste an artist from Mumbai was strolling on the beach. He was saddened to see disrespect for God in the form of broken idols floating in the water, which were in turn leading to pollution. It was then that he came up with an idea of making Ganesha idols with paper. He had heard that if the paper is mixed with an organic binder then it becomes hard. This is when he started working towards making non-polluting idols.
The whole process from the beginning to the end is environment-friendly. The paper is procured from the scrap dealers and then recycled. It is further torn into several small pieces and then mixed with clay to form a dough. When the dough is workable then it is moulded and shaped into sculptures. Once the primary frame is ready a layer of recycled paper is wrapped over the sculpture with an organic glue so that the materials bind. Then finally the idol is finished and painted with non-toxic paints.
Rohit Vaste has indeed been successful in creating idols which are lightweight, non-toxic, non polluting and easy to handle. These idols are so light that even children and ladies can carry them easily. Also, these paper idols come in different sizes and shapes ranging between 1-3 feet priced at Rs 2,100 to 20,000. If you are interested to buy one this year, you can buy from here – Paper Ganesh.
Though Rohit has come up with a solution for a big problem he still urges the people not to immerse these in the sea as the paper may stay behind and the fish may consume it.
This post is part of the We Are the World Blogfest, a monthly blogging event created by Damyanti Biswas and Belinda Witzenhausen to showcase stories of hope and light. This month, the co-hosts are Shilpa Garg, Simon Falk, Damyanti Biswas, Lizbeth Hartz and Eric Lahti. Please hop over to check out the amazing WATWB posts for a dose of feel-good to last you a whole month. You’ll be happy you did!