Ganesh Chaturthi, or the celebration of the birth of Lord Ganesha, is fervently celebrated in the city. The ten-day celebration has often been accused of polluting the rivers. But hearteningly, there has been greater awareness about the harmful effects of such celebrations and a host of eco-friendly options are now available. It includes eco-friendly decorations as well as bio-degradable Ganpati idols.There has also been observed a trend of Ganpati idols being immersed in artificial ponds instead of rivers, which would otherwise spoil the ecological balance of the water bodies.
Many households have also started making their own decorations using items like wheatgrass, rice, banana leaves or fibre. Some prefer to send out e-invites for Ganpati Puja held at their homes or mandals. With an online RSVP, one can invite guests through the site with relevant details mentioned online. Several of the pandals use energy efficient appliances as well and arrange for fuel-efficient shuttles on the premises.
For the decorations, several mandals have opted for organic or locally grown seasonal flowers. The flowers used traditionally for the festival are often doused with pesticides and shipped from across the world. Potted plants are also an option, which can double up as gifts to the guests, especially for celebrations held at home. Many people also decorate the venue with bamboo and eco-friendly candles. Bamboo is a sustainable material, and considered lucky as well.
The store eCoexist sells Ganesh idols which are eco-friendly and safe for the environment. The idols are made from natural clay from Konkan and then brought to Pune. They make eco-friendly kumkum, titles, paper napkins and natural colours for rangoli or processions. They also make cloth bags that can be used to carry things around.
Says Manisha Gutman of eCoexist Group, “As the awareness about the harmful impact of Plaster of Paris (PoP) and chemical paints on natural water bodies grows, eCoexist has created a supply network for eco-friendly idols made of natural clay and papier mache. This year, the idol makers are turning back to their traditional ways of sculpting in clay and using turmeric, multani mitti and geru to paint idols. The demand for such idols has grown considerably and many stores have come together to promote the switch to natural materials.”
She adds that they have been receiving requests from sculptors to help them market their clay sculptures. “We have 20 eco-friendly designs this year that are coming from Maharashtra and Karnataka,” she elaborates. One of their sculptors includes Omkar Salunke, a 14 year-old boy who has produced 74 idols this year which eCoexist will help him sell. “We set up a scholarship for Omkar’s education and connected him with Bollywood art director Sukant Panigrahy, who will mentor him,” adds Gutman.
Each of their idols will carry a small bundle of seeds of indigenous trees as prasad. Devotees can plant the seed as part of their worship rituals. Similarly, the store Nilaya Bandhej, will be selling eco-friendly Ganpati idols made up of multani mitti, haldi, geroo and sindoor. The Bombay Store is offering eco-friendly idols made of haldi, kumkum and saru mitti. Besides, they stock terracotta bowls and terracotta ganpati idols as well.
Shop For A Cause is offering garlands and torans made from natural fibre, beads, cloth and satin, which are all recyclable.
Some mandals have chosen to decorate the stage with vintage, antique decorations, which they hire or rent. They have an added appeal as they are affordable and reusable. Some mandals also choose to give away the eco-friendly products to a charitable organisation, hospital or NGO. It helps them save money and avoid wastage.