Few festivals in India can match the gaiety and enthusiasm of a Ganesh Utsav! Also known as Ganesh Chathurthi, this festival celebrates the elephant-headed deity, Ganesh. While this festival is celebrated differently in different regions, the most ardent celebration is seen in Maharashtra, particularly in Mumbai.
Ganesh Chathurthi is a ten day festival, where idols of Ganesha are installed in homes and communities and worshipped throughout this period. The festival comes to a close on the tenth day, when the idols are taken out on a procession for immersion or visarjan in a water body nearby. This is symbolic of the return of the deity to his parents in the mountains, to return next year.
As the years go by, the celebrations have gotten bigger in scale and grandeur, and unfortunately in the use of harmful materials as well. From plastic to plaster of Paris, from Styrofoam to chemical paints, all these toxic substances find their way to our soil and water bodies. Not only does this destroy our natural resources, but it also harms aquatic life. This year, let’s turn things around with a Green Ganeshotsav – by checking out these tips and ways to celebrate an eco friendly Ganesh Chathurthi!
15 Tips for an Eco-Friendly Ganesh Chathurthi
1. Buy Eco Friendly Idols
With all the awareness on going green during festivals, there are a lot of idol makers nowadays who commit to using only natural materials in making idols. Buy idols made of clay or another natural material. At any rate, stay away from common offenders like platsic, Plaster of Paris or Styrofoam, which can take years to disintegrate. During this time, they reduce the oxygen level in the water and hurt aquatic life.
2. Avoid Chemical Paints
Many of us like to add our own special touches to the idols we buy by adding some decorations here and there. Avoid using chemical paints for this, no matter how attractive they appear with their bright colors and cheap prices. The cost we pay in the long run will be huge and not worth the short term benefits. Go for food-based or vegetable-based colors.
3. Go DIY
To be completely sure that you’re using only biodegradable and natural materials in your celebration there is only one foolproof solution – go DIY! Yes, you can make your own Ganesha idols out of anything – clay, paper, vegetables or anything else you can think of. You can even make your own paints to decorate these so that your idol is 100% handmade and green! This is an old pic of a clay Ganesha we had done with materials got from Omved.
4. Natural Rangoli
Most Indian festivals are incomplete without a Rangoli, and Ganesh Chathurthi is no exception. But when you use chemical powders for your Rangoli, they get washed away to pollute our soil and water sources. Not to mention the harm they cause pets or other animals who might try to eat it. Making natural Rangoli colors is so easy, there’s no reason to use the toxic versions!
5. Go Green with Decorations
As soon as it’s time for any festival, marketplaces are choc-a-bloc with plastic garlands and other artificial decorative elements. But when you consider the sheer number of natural options that are available, it seems senseless to pay money to hurt our environment! Instead, dress up your idol, pandal or home with fresh flowers, leaves, twigs, coconut shells or paper decorations that you can make yourself. Here is a link to crafts you can make with your kids. Look up this post 21 GANESH CHATURTHI CRAFTS AND ACTIVITIES TO DO WITH KIDS. These crafts have been made by the super talented Shruti of ArtsyCraftsyMom.
6. Choose Eco friendly Serving Dishes
Pujas are conducted in most homes and other institutions during the ten day Ganesh festival, and they often end with a distribution of prasad. Avoid the temptation to use Styrofoam or plastic disposable dishes for this purpose. Choose bamboo or banana leaf dishes to distribute prasad. If you’re making a larger quantity of sweets to gift your friends and neighbors, you can send them across on a reusable steel tray or in a biodegradable cardboard box.
7. Say No to Plastic
There will be many occasions during the festival when you may be faced with plastic. Maybe you have to carry a bunch of things from one location to another. Maybe you have to distribute drinks to the workers setting up the pandal. Or you need bags to collect the garbage from the celebration site. Whatever it is, have alternative options on hand, like jute or cloth bags, and steel or clay tumblers.
8. Remove all Extras before Immersion
Before immersing the idol, make sure you remove all garlands, crowns or other accessories. The reason is that these items can trap small animals in the water. It can also get caught in the feet, wings or beaks of other animals, which can even prove fatal for them.
9. Reuse wherever Possible
As far as possible, buy or make things that you can reuse the next year, and the year after that. For instance, a stainless steel Ganesha idol can be immersed, taken out and kept safely till next year. Fabric decorations can be cleaned and stored away till needed again. If you’re using metal crowns or jewelry, they can also be reused for several years over.
10. Use Electrical Lights only where Necessary
People celebrate the Ganesh festivals with lots of lights that remain switched on all through the night. This can use up a lot of electricity. Turn on these lights only when a puja is going on, or during the final immersion event. When buying lights, go for ones that use less energy, like CFL or LED lights. Do whatever is possible during daylight to save electricity. Pic Source : RedTedArt
11. Cut down on Noise pollution
This year experience the spirit of Ganesh Chathurthi in a calm and relaxing environment. Make it more as an awareness of spiritual awakening. While it’s common to have some noise and bustle especially during the tenth day, try to keep it to a minimum. Avoid the temptation to have loudspeakers at every nook and corner, and follow local regulations when it comes to playing loud music.
12. Opt for Artificial Tanks
Instead of immersing the Ganesha idol in a river or lake, opt for an artificial water body, like a tank or pool. There are people who also opt for large buckets or tubs for smaller idols. The advantage of this is that not only do you avoid polluting natural water sources, you also save on the expenses of transporting the idol to a distant location.
13. Get together for a Community Celebration
One of the most effective ways to have an eco friendly Ganesh festival is to celebrate together as a single community. This means one idol instead of several, and decorating one pandal instead of many. Cutting down multiple celebrations into a single one instantly downsizes everything, and greatly reduces waste and pollution.
14. Compost Leftovers
If you’ve used natural materials throughout your celebration and taken them off before immersion. Compost the waste. Put them to good use by composting it to generate manure or bio gas. If you’re having a community celebration, you can put everyone’s waste into one compost heap for better usage.
15. Spread Awareness
Trying to have an eco friendly celebration on your own isn’t easy, nor is it the right way to go. We need everyone coming forward and adopting these green techniques, and the only way to get this done is by spreading awareness. Make use of your social media channels, resident’s association notice boards or office circulars to spread the word and involve people in this green initiative.
Having an eco friendly Ganesh Chathurthi is not nearly as hard as it sounds! Convince your friends and neighbors to be a part of eco-friendly Ganesg Chathurthi celebrations. When they see how it can save the environment, they will follow suit. cSo what are going to be your ways to celebrate an eco-friendly Ganesh Chathurthi?