With the scare of the third wave looming over, for the second consecutive year, the upcoming 10-day Ganeshotsav festival starting September 10 is going to be a low-key affair in Mumbai.
The Maharashtra government has already decided to ban gigantic idols of Lord Ganesha and mega public celebrations for the upcoming 10-day Ganeshotsav festival starting September 10, even as the organisers cried foul.
In view of the anticipated COVID-19 'third wave', the state government issued a detailed notification restricting the height of the idols to up to 4-feet at public marquees and 2-feet for home worship.
Meanwhile, Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar has echoed the Maharashtra government's sentiments and urged Mumbaikars to celebrate Ganeshotsav in an eco-friendly manner. Mumbai Mayor has asked Mumbaikars to save the environment by bringing home Lord Ganesha idols made from shadu maati (clay), red soil, or paper mache.
You’ve given a clarion call for celebrating eco-friendly Ganeshotsav. How important it is from Mumbai’s environment perspective to be conscious while celebrating the festival?
The much-celebrated Ganeshostav was started by freedom fighter and social reformer Bal Gangadhar Tilak. What used to be a private, family affair was turned into a Sarvajanik Utsav (public festival) by Tilak. He turned it into a public event after understanding its cultural importance for uniting Indians and boosting the sense of belongingness among them during the freedom struggle.
But over the years, the festival underwent a change — in terms of the way it is celebrated. As years passed by, the height of the idol kept increasing with many makers resorting to making use of Plaster of Paris (PoP) to make these idols. These idols are not eco-friendly and are difficult to do visarjan of.
Hence, it is necessary to opt for idols that are eco-friendly so that they don’t affect the environment. In the olden days, there were limited ways in which idols were made — shadu maati (clay) and red soil were commonly used in its making. But today thanks to several available modern techniques, one can make use of other eco-friendly materials like paper mache, alum, etc.
These ‘green Ganeshas’ are not harmful to our environment. In fact, not just the idol, people should also make use of eco-friendly or reusable decor items for the festival.
But this shouldn’t be limited to just Mumbai or one particular festival. All festivals including the upcoming Navratri and Diwali should be celebrated in an environment-friendly manner.
How did BMC come up with the idea of eco-friendly Ganeshotsav?
Every year, BMC has to conduct extensive clean-up drives at the varied Chowpattys across Mumbai after Ganesh virsarjan—this starts right from the one-and-a-half-day visarjan. And the number of idols being immersed in these water bodies increases every year. Other than this, the city administration has designated spots for immersion, but people mostly go to the popular beaches for idol immersion.
Most of these idols, as I mentioned earlier, are made using Plaster of Paris (PoP), few are made from clay. The immersion of the PoP idols is known to cause an adverse effect on the marine life. Not just the PoP, but heavy metal paints, jewellery used for decoration and other materials used in worship adds to the degradation.
And there is a limit to which things can be thrown in the sea. Environment protection is one of the major factors why we decided to celebrate eco-friendly Ganeshostav, and also Navratri. Hats off to Mumbaikars who listened to us and are celebrating the festival in an environment-friendly manner.
Will BMC allow people to immerse Ganesh idols at big Chowpattys? Or is BMC planning to build special/artificial ponds this year too?
The BMC is already setting up artificial ponds for visarjan. We are trying to build atleast four ponds per ward. The government has urged people not to do visarjan at sea and BMC agrees with that. The final decision regarding this will be announced soon. But I think this year as well, the protocols will be the same as last year.
Is BMC planning to collect Lord Ganesha idols through door-to-door visits? If yes how will it work?
Yes, this year too we are planning to do the same. Last year we started this where BMC vehicles would go and pick up the Ganesh idols and flowers, etc. After which our official would carry out the visarjan following all the rituals. After visarjan the wooden plank on which Lord Ganesha idols are kept during visarjan is returned to the rightful owner with the remaining sand of the Lord Ganesha idols. But people preferred to visit the ponds which we had built, so that they carry the visarjan themselves. I have decided to do the visarjan of my idol at home in a tub. And in order to save the environment, even people should also try to follow this. If every Mumbaikar decides to immerse their idols at home in a water tub, it will help the environment immensely.
Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court recently ordered that idols of Lord Ganesh and Goddess Durga that are made of plaster of Paris (POP) will not be sold as ‘idols’ but as ‘objects’. What’s your take on that?
Last year we saw a lot of opposition to plaster of PoP idols, but they are still in demand. The bench said that PoP idol-makers are permitted to sell the idols on the condition that while selling those, they would inform the buyers that they are not intended for any kind of worship, nor are they intended to be immersed in any water body, natural or artificial.
We will definitely follow the court orders and I am sure the state government will also focus on this.
A message you would like to give our readers on Ganeshotsav.
Follow eco-friendly Ganeshostav and Visarjan. And remember “Apla Bappa, Apla Visarjan Bappacha”.