Ganeshotsav 2021: From shaadu maati, paper mache to gomay, here's how Ganpati Bappa is going green this year

Making eco-friendly Ganesh idols at home can be an easy job if you know how. FPJ finds out simple ways to go about that

Sapna SarfareUpdated: Wednesday, September 15, 2021, 10:34 AM IST

As more people are aware of climate change and saving the environment, they are opting for eco-friendly celebration. To start with, they make and buy paper and clay idols. Ganeshotsav is the perfect time to bring out your inner artist to create an eco-friendly idol at home.


To go eco-friendly, understand its impact. Shobhana Hadap is the founder and creative director of the design firm, Studio Mars Pvt. Ltd, that has been running Pune Handmade Papers since August 2019.

The Handmade Paper Institute (HMPI) Pune, under the Maharashtra State Khadi and Village Industries Board, has been making eco-friendly handmade paper for over 80 years. This year, Hadap decided to make paper mache Ganesh idols that are 100% eco-friendly, sturdy and recyclable.

“Our firm intends to design better sustainable paper products and promote a DIY design culture and range. We hope to create awareness on an environment-friendly lifestyle. We have always been reinventing the sustainable way of celebrations,” she says.

The traditional idols are made of 90% handmade paper pulp and 10% shadu and adhesive. “They are incredibly light. They can be gifted or sent anywhere, as they are non-fragile and strong. They dissolve easily in a bucket during immersion and turned into paper pulp or be retained and coloured again next year,” Hadap says.

Shadu maati or natural clay is another material making a comeback. Satish Bramhe, 66, a retired bank manager, has turned idol-maker.

“I am a nature lover, which led me to make eco-friendly Ganpati idols. The idols made of clay do not add to water pollution. Another important aspect is that the idols we worship with love and gratitude is thrown into waste and dirt. A plaster of Paris idol does not dissolve in water,” said Bramhe.


Kavita Malgaonkar Rumde, founder of Sattwik Unboxing Traditions, did a research on shadu maati and found out that its resources in India are about to die due to high demand and imports. “So, it’s becoming more expensive. So natural red soil or garden soil is the best option to make idols,” says Rumde.

Her uncle Vilas Malgaonkar from Sawantwadi is a professional idol maker and has been exploring eco-friendly options. “He came up with the idea of mixing red soil with gomay or cow dung with panchamrut and gomutra and knead it to making idols. He also proposed to finish it with natural red soil colour or cow dung slurry to give the final coat. No harmful colours are used in the making of these idols. Natural colours are used to paint only the vital features. This makes them 100% eco-friendly. He started worked out this formula last year and made commercial this year,” Rumde says.


The eager ones want to learn ways to make eco-friendly idols in the comfort of their homes. Bramhe says making the shadu maati idols is simple. “Just add water to the clay to make a non-sticky consistency. Make different parts of the idol’s body (hands, legs, head, trunk, ears and so on) and merge them. Start with the base, then two legs, stomach, chest, two hands, head, ears, trunk, and crown. Don’t forget to add a modak and a little mouse.”

If interested in making them from garden clay and gomay, Rumde says, “I suggest sieving the garden clay to a fine consistency and adding gomay to it. We suggest a 50-50 ratio. Mix with water and make the idol using mould or hands. As per tradition, the idol’s height should not be less than our palm size. So shape the idols accordingly. Let it dry in the sun or any dry location for four-five days. Draw only eyes and other features using basic watercolours.”

Hadap says eco-friendly Ganesh idols can be made at home with the help of a mould. These can be created with the help of paper mache that can be easily made by using old newspapers/used papers and adhesive. “It is a long process. The easiest way to explain is to first mix paper pulp (newspapers/used papers) and shadu maati plus adhesive as per requirement or ratio needed for making usable mix. Then put it in a mould. When it dries, you can take it out and paint it as per your choice,” says Hadap.


Finishing touches add to perfection. Hadap urges everyone to use paper for an eco-friendly Ganesh festival. “We also recommend minimising the use of plastic and avoiding purchasing thermocol or such elements when decorating the pandal. Readers can make their own decoration like flowers and leaves using handmade paper available in multiple colours and textures.”

Bramhe suggests making and then keeping the idol in an airy place to dry. “Please use poster or watercolours as these have fewer chemicals. After the festival is over, immerse the idol in a bucket. Collect the dissolved clay and keep it in an airtight plastic bag. You can make an idol next year using the same clay. People should use colour papers for decoration. You can make beautiful makhar out of corrugated boxes.”

Make your own Ganesha!

Follow these step-by-step pointers to make an eco-friendly Bappa at home...

Step 1:

Take 1 kg shaadu maati in a mixing bowl. Add water to it gradually to make a smooth clay. Knead it like chapati dough. Once the clay is ready, keep it in a plastic bag to avoid it from drying.

Step 2:

We start making the Ganapati from the bottom. Take some clay and make a round or square base for the idol. Next take some clay and roll it into a cylinder. Place the cylinder in the shape of the letter “C”. These are the legs of Ganapati. Attach this cylinder on the base using some small toothpicks. Next take some clay and roll it into a ball. This is the stomach of the idol. Place the stomach on the legs. Wet your fingers and blend the stomach and legs well from the back.

Step 3:

Next, take some clay and make a cylinder shape. This is the chest and shoulder part of the idol. Place it on the stomach with the help of toothpicks. Using wet fingers blend it well from the back. Take some clay again and roll it into a small ball which is the head of the idol. Place this head on the shoulders and bind it using a toothpick.

Step 4:

Now make a carrot shaped trunk and place it on the center of the head. Using your wet thumbs blend the trunk well with the head./

Step 5:

Now make very small conical teeth and place it in between the head and trunk. Also place the janeu, sacred thread.

Step 6:

Make circular rings and place them on the head for the head gear. You can get creative with the head gear.

Step 7:

Now roll two equal sized cylinders, thinner than the legs. These are the hands. Attach the left hand to the left shoulder at the right angle. Blend the right hand with the right shoulder in the shape of the letter “V”. Also roll out two equal sized balls and shape them up for the ears. Attach the ears on the sides of the head./

Step 8:

Using a toothpick, you can do detailing like the fingers and jewellery. Your idol is now ready and you can keep it in a cool and dry place, and let it dry naturally. The idol will take 3-4 days to dry completely. You can then paint it using poster colours or geru (Red ochre powder).

Paper mache idols

The DIY process for making paper idol is easier. Mix paper (any would do) and water to create pliant dough. Keep a picture nearby for help. Create separate shapes as per the idol’s body – big stomach, 2 coils thick enough for legs & back, coil for crown, 2 petal ear form, hands, 1 trunk, tusks and 1 modak. When assembling the idol, start with the coils made for the legs & back. Place them on top of each other & wrapped around the stomach like a semi-circle. The rest of the shapes can be assembled one by one.

Remove the cracks with the help of wet fingers. Create the eyes, navel, tika and crown. Dry the finished figure for minimum two days. There are chances of the figure shrinking. So make a slightly larger figure. Give finishing touches with eco-friendly colours and items.

(To participate in the 'FPJ's Eco Ganesha Contest 2021', scan the QR code or visit the link given below. You can also send a WhatsApp on 2784528977 to get link OR Tweet using #FPJecoganesha and tag our handle @fpjindia)


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