There may be several religious overtones to Ganesha idol immersion ritual carried out all over India each year. But the one that I find forever appealing is my mother’s philosophical take on it: “What comes from the Earth must go back to it. Immersion means abdication of any material attachment. It’s a means to develop philosophical detachment in life.”
But the sorry trail of painted Ganeshas, plastic flowers, use-and-throw items and other packaging material left behind by the people at water bodies and government-designated Kalyanis is nothing but a massacre of this philosophy. Each year, immersion spots turn into unholy sights. The dead fish are the only visible casualties in a lake ringed with rotting trash. The suffering of the largely invisible aquatic life goes unnoticed. The painted Ganesha idols in various states of disintegration floating in toxic shallow waters lay bare the scant respect we have for our own surroundings once the ritual is over. I’m sure even the Lord himself wouldn’t agree with this aftermath!
Many awareness campaigns erupt in response to these acts all over the city. This year, one of the most noticeable ones has popped up in a corner at HSR Layout. Here, a group of 18-20 volunteers from HSR Citizen FORUM who have been promoting clay idols and campaigning against hazardous painted plaster of Paris (PoP) ones, among other causes, went a step ahead and started making pure clay idols with their own hands.
The coming-together was spontaneous among the volunteers and needed no convincing. Says Dr Shanthi Choudary who is leading this initiative: “Every year, we lobby against PoP idols and promote vendors supplying clay Ganeshas. This year we wanted to get an impact at community level involving as many people as possible.”
Their sincere purpose found resonance at Clay Station. “Our initiative was whole-heartedly supported by Ganeshan of Clay Station in HSR Layout who agreed to teach volunteers for free so that we take it forward in our communities as a social responsibility.”
On September 2, the first batch of volunteers was trained by Ganeshan and team. “The next step is to engage communities using these trained volunteers to make their own clay idols,” adds Dr Shanthi. She is also in touch with a few schools to turn this into a project involving children, parents and teachers.
Here’s hoping that many more come forward to ‘dirty’ their hands with pure clay for a clean and sensible Ganesha Habba.