Celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi in a Safe and Environmentally Friendly Way!

 In Community, Sustainability

Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most popular festivals in Goa. The festival is celebrated to honor the birthday of Lord Ganesh, who is widely revered as the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the God of intellect and wisdom.

The ten-day festival begins with people bringing in clay idols of Ganesha, symbolizing Ganesha’s visit. The visit is marked with traditional revelry, family festivities and of course, lots of delicious food!

The festival culminates on the day of Ananta Chaturdashi when idols of Ganesha are immersed in the most convenient body of water. Some families have a tradition of immersion on the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, or 7th day.

Over the years the festival has grown bigger with grander processions, more pomp, larger than life statues and unfortunately a lot more environmental pollution. The demand for bigger and grander Ganesha idols has seen makers move away from traditional clay models to plaster of Paris and plastic figures. People prefer these alternatives as they are much cheaper and look better, however, these models do not dissolve in water and the chemicals and dyes used often pollute the water even further. Year on year, the amount of waste and trash collected on beaches and at the bottom of lakes and ponds keeps on increasing.

While it is important to celebrate festivals and renew cultural ties, it’s also extremely important to be cognizant of the repercussions of your actions. Here are some easy ways to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi while also protecting the environment.

  • Use clay Ganesha idols: Idols made of non-biodegradable products are the single largest source of pollution post Chaturthi celebrations.  Say no to idols made of chemical, Plaster of Paris, clay, plastic, thermocol (polystyrene). Opt for natural, biodegradable material so that after immersions, it does not pollute water and the surroundings.
  • Have a community idol: Besides, reducing costs, having a single idol for the entire community also reduces waste and brings the entire community together, which is the purpose of a festival isn’t it?
  • Symbolic immersion: Instead of immersing the Ganesh idol in a water body, it can be symbolically immersed at home. You can use a metal or stone idol and symbolically immerse this in a bucket of water, or even carry it in procession to the sea, hold it under the water, and then bring it back home for the next year. A betel nut in place of the actual idol can be immersed in a bucket of water.
  • Reduce Plastic: Carry offerings, Prasad, fruits etc. which are carried to and from pandals in paper or reusable bags. Use natural plates like banana leaves instead of plastic plates for distributing Prasad.
  • Reduce noise pollution: We Indians love celebrating our festivals with fireworks of all varieties. However, these fireworks end up producing a lot of toxic smoke which doesn’t dissipate in the atmosphere easily. The noise caused by the bombs and firecrackers scare pets and animals and cause lots of distress. Change the way you celebrate by singing songs or enacting plays.
  • Compost pit for organic material: After the festivities are over, collect the offerings of flowers, and other organic material and put them in a community built compost pit. This compost material can be used to fertilize your garden. Dried flowers can be used later to make natural colors or decorative paper for gifts. Do not burn or throw away waste even if it’s organic.

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