We celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi. As usual, the deity who says no entry for obstacles has brought with him a deluge of rains, which is no surprise as we are also in the middle of monsoons.
During my childhood, Ganesh Chaturthi was awaited with joy by the whole family. It was the harbinger of the festival season, which is practically the rest of the year. Although, in all fairness, it is Krishna Jayanthi or Gokulashtami that is the real starting point for the festival season.
The wonderful thing about our festivals is how they are all marked by the delicious dishes unique to each one of them. The best thing is, every region has its own particular suite of recipes for the festival–so if you live in a friendly neighborhood, chances are pretty good that your table will show a happy variety of mouth-watering food.
As South Indians, we have our own specific set of preparations including different types of modaks in various shapes, sesame laddus, the omnipresent vadas and a large variety of fruits displayed around the decorated altar.
I’ve often wondered why Ganesha is so endearingly chubby when he loved fruits and seems to have eaten healthy, but that’s a thought for another day.
One of the highlights of Ganesh Chaturthi in our house was making the idol. I have been doing this since I was five years old. At least two days before G-day, I would scout around for the best clay and stash it away in the garden.
Bright and early on Chaturthi, I’d bathe and after helping out with odd jobs in the kitchen and around the house, settle down to making the Ganesha for the puja. I feel so sentimental even as I write this–my folks were so encouraging and waited eagerly to see what I would come up with. If only we had had a camera back then! Sigh.
So, I would make the “murti” and place it on a large brass tray with ample space around the deity for arranging the fruits, etc.
Over the years, as I grew up, I became more innovative. I’ve made Ganeshas with clay, and roti dough.
Once my son came along, of course he had to make his own and we would give him the roti dough to play with. I still remember the rather cute idol he made with his play doh! We have even attempted the five headed Ganesha together.
Coming back to the non-toxic, eco-friendly Ganesha, I would drape a little dhoti around the idol, then add the sacred thread. For the eyes, I used grains and for the tusk, grains of rice. I have to admit that as I made the Ganesha, I would sort of fall in love with it.
After the festivities were over, came the saddest part of this festival, for me.
I still remember bawling my eyes out when we had to bid the deity goodbye and watch him disappear into the water. Oh, I know there is a good story behind it–but still.
In the name of religion, we all know that we are essentially polluting our lakes and seas with the avalanche of idols made from all kinds of materials. I am just not in favor of Ganeshas made of ghee and sweets and other stuff that poisons the water.
And then, once the idols are dumped in the waters, we see mutilated idols and body parts strewn all over the place. So tragic! I am pretty sure he never intended it that way.
I once accompanied a family friend, who was a photographer, to Chowpatty beach, with the procession on immersion day. I’ll never forget how intimidated I was to see the huge statues being steered out to sea. It felt quite nightmarish. I was in the sixth grade.
Wasn’t’ there a better way?
Of course, yes. Several, in fact.
Here are some ideas for an eco-friendly versions and thereby, ecofriendly immersion of our beloved Ganesha.
Eco-friendly Ganesh Chaturthi
- Make your own Ganesha from clay. Or other bio-degradeable material such as dough made from flour, or cow dung. Hey, it’s not so bad! Remember to add some seeds to the mix.
Take it to the next level by including some seeds/grains mixed in the clay. You’ll understand why as you read on.
- Place your Ganesha in your tulsi pot or any other pot. Immerse!
- If you have a garden, great. Place the Ganesha in a tub of water, and after he dissolves, water the garden with the contents of the tub.
- If there is a well in your area, gently lower the eco-friendly Ganesha into the well after removing all the embellishments.
- If you included seeds in your raw material, and chose to immerse your Ganesha in your garden, water it every day, and look forward to a pleasant surprise as you see them sprout! Yay, eh?
- One Christmas, we got a chocolate Christmas tree. Most enjoyable. Why not a chocolate Ganesha? Bake a chocolate Ganesha, then celebrate the immersion in milk. There, you have delicious prasadam to share with loved ones.
- In our family, for every puja, regardless of how grand the idol is, the little cone made from turmeric and placed in front of the deity is the one that is actually worshipped. We immerse the turmeric cone representing the Ganesha in a potted plant. We also decorate the pot to jazz it up!
- Carve the Ganesha out of a large vegetable or fruit. Or just use a variety to put the idol together.
Look at this Brinjal ganesha!
Or this: (Grains ganesha)
- My son came up with a brilliant idea– draw the Ganesha on a slate and immerse in a tub. I thought that was pretty smart. Yes, we did that too. (Yes I sketched this one!)
Prefer a colorful one? Use water color on any surface, and immerse.
- How about a papier mache idol? Easy to make. Also easily bio-degradeable when immersed.
Then, experiment with flowers and leaves.
Just make sure that you don’t abandon your Ganesha in a spot where it clearly says you are not to do it. The last thing you want is an unhappy Ganesha, right?
Remember, size does not matter when it comes to devotion. Keep it small.
I remember we made a trough in our garden and filled it with water, to immerse the Ganesha. So enjoyable. And he was right there with us, yet merged with the soil doing good things, just as it was intended.
We must remember that festivals are all about family and friends getting together and having a good time. Why pollute our environment in the process? I can assure you that Ganesha will understand.
And if you find Ganesha simply choosing to arrive in your home like this…rejoice! Talk about nature conspiring to make it eco-friendly. You only have to notice! The following veggie Ganeshas are from here.
Sweet potato – diabetes-friendly!
An apple a day!
I’ve not even touched the tip of the eco-friendly Ganesh Chaturthi idea iceberg here!
I would love to hear yours! ♥
Happy Ganesh Chaturthi!