I Am Using a Clay Ganesha..Are You..?

Vakrathunda mahaakaaya 

Surya koti samaprabhaa 

Nirvignam kurume deva 

Sarvakaaryeshu sarvadaa.

Ganapati is the god of wisdom and the benevolent deity of the dynasty of Peshwas who ruled Maharashtra inculcating a special culture in the state. He is the herald of auspicious beginnings and is the beloved deity of all. He is the one who can remove all obstacles to success. He is the giver of fortune and can help to avoid natural calamities.

Why is Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrated 

Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated on the eve of the lord Ganesha’s birthday. Ganesh Pooja is preferred during Madhyahana on Ganesh Chaturthi as it is believed that Lord Ganesha was born during Madhyahana Kaal which is between 12:33 and 15:35.

There is always an innate pull towards Mushika Vaahana who has occupied a place in the hearts of elders and children alike.

How is it Celebrated 
The celebrations are usually so grand that everyone, irrespective of their age and gender, is involved. The proceedings involve getting a Ganesha idol, placing it in the proper place and performing pooja, also offering Ganesha a variety of  dishes.  Performing pooja and offering variety of dishes to Ganesha goes on either for a day or 3 or 5 or 7 or even 21 days. Finally, the Ganesha is immersed in a lake or sea.

Public celebrations of this festival are hugely popular, setting up different statues in each street or in each locality.The festival is also the time for cultural activities like singing and theater performances, orchestra and community activities like free medical check-up, blood donation camps, charity for the poor, etc.

How is Ganesha Made / From Clay Ganesha to PoP Gnaesha :
Though the Ganesha to be used should be made of clay, to make it attractive,  coloring the idol had begun. Slowly, Ganesha’s with Plaster of Paris (PoP) had come up. As they are lighter, a bit cheaper and can make it colorful, setting up different Ganesha idols had become a fancy, and also a matter of pride, infact. 

We know that the proceedings involve immersing Ganesha in a lake. So, immersing these huge PoP idols  in a lake, lead to the water pollution. This had an adverse impact not only on humans but also on the marine life.

Plaster is non-biodegradable, and insoluble in water. Moreover, the chemical paints used to adorn these plaster idols themselves contain heavy metals like mercury and cadmium, causing water pollution. Also, on immersion, non-biodegradable accessories that originally adorned the idol accumulate in the layers of sand on the beach.

When an idol made of Plaster of Paris is immersed in the water, it changes form to gypsum, thus adding a large amount of material to the water that breaks down very slowly, while adding to the hardness of water, both of which deteriorate the life carrying capacity and quality of the water thereby causing irreversible environmental effects on the coastal ecology or the eco-system of any water body, which in turn causes adverse environmental effects.

An example:
A study in 2001, revealed an alarming increase in presence of heavy metals in the Hussainsagar Lake (Hyderabad) following immersions. The study showed that subsequent to Ganesha-idol immersions, the concentration of these metals Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Lead  increased perceptibly. The level of arsenic, a noxious trace element, had increased nine-fold in the lake water after the idol immersion, compared to its Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) standards.

The concentration of mercury was found to be alarmingly high in the lake water. It increased by five to six hundred times in the lake water compared to the specifications of desirable limits set by BIS and ICMR standards.

The various paraphernalia immersed along with the idols and its impact is given below:

Sr.No Material contributed by immersion Impact on the aquatic body
1 Plaster of Paris Increases dissolved solids, contribute metals and sludge
2 Decoration material viz. clothes, polish, paint, ornaments cosmetic items etc. Contributes suspended matters, trace metals (Zinc, lead, iron, chromium, arsenic, mercury etc.) metalloids and various organic and inorganic matter, oil & grease etc.
3 Flowers, Garlands, oily substance Increase floating suspended matter organic contamination, oil & grease and various organic and inorganic matter.
4 Bamboo sticks, Beauty articles Big pieces get collected and recycled while small pieces remain floating in water or settled at the river bottom inhabiting river flow.
5 Polythene bags/plastic items Adds to the hazardous material and chokes the aquatic life
6 Eatables, food items etc. Contributes oil and grease, organics to water bodies.

All the figures quoted above and the data has been taken from the report :

Preventive Environemental Management plan for eco-friendly Ganpati festival prepared by Dr. Shyam R Asolekar, Professor & Head Centre for Environmental Science & Engineering Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B), 2007.

Eco-friendly Ganesha 

With the awareness growing now, there are about 40% of the population who use clay idols. There are many NGOs that take up making clay ganeshas. Also to pass on the tradition, schools teach the kids how to make them. Many mothers fill the air with fun and festive mood by engaging their kids in the Ganesha making.

How to make a clay Ganesha…

  1. Roll out some clay or dough into a thin, rectangular shape about a cm thick to use for a pedestal for your Ganesha to sit on.
  2. Roll a big ball for the body and place it in the middle of the pedestal.
  3. Roll a small ball for the head and elongate one part of it to make a trunk.
  4. Bend the trunk up a bit and position the head on the body.
  5. Roll two similar shapes (about the size of the head) to create legs, and position these on either side of the body, curving round to overlap at the front.
  6. Roll two cylindrical shapes for the arms and attach these to the back of the body, then curve them around to the front and position them as you like. A raised hand for blessing, or a hand cupping a lotus flower, are both good options.
  7. Roll another two balls of clay, and flatten them to create ears that you attach to the back of the head.
  8. Roll two tiny pieces of clay, or insert toothpicks to create tusks.
  9. Fashion a headdress of your liking to place between Lord Ganesha’s ears. 

It is easy and fun..

The Ganesha Festival is not only a popular festival; it has become a very critical and important economic activity. Many artists, industries, and businesses survive on this mega-event. Ganesha Festival also provides a stage for budding artists to present their art to the public. There are also many events that are organised to promote awareness to use clay Ganesha.

So, let us also revert to the traditional clay Ganesha and immerse it in a bucket of water at home.

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