Ganesh Wants Us To Not Immerse Him In 2023. Are you listening?


In the past, Ganesh Chathurthi or Ganesh Puja, was mainly celebrated only in homes in Maharashtra. Lokmanya Tilak changed this as he rebelled against the British, to make this into a community festival, with the motive of breaking caste barriers and to fight for a common cause, which was the freedom of India.
But much has changed since then. The smart marketeers of Bollywood recognised the emotion and the fervour of the festival. They started to include the festival as part of the screenplay of their films.
The director roped in popular stars, like Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan and many more as they were seen celebrating the festival onscreen, baring their muscular bodies as they sang, danced and romanced the lead heroine. The songs always had the backdrop of the benign idol who is seen watching over the community festival.
This make believe situation is naturally enough to incite excitement among fans to create the same scene in their neighbourhood.
This smart move by the film industry made the festival popular in parts of India where it wasn’t celebrated ever before.
We all know that films cut across the nation with its unifying culture. Therefore it slowly became the norm to plan the big budget pandal and organise the 10 day long frenzy, that not only mimics the stars but cruelly overlooks the harm caused by the immersion of the idol in Indian waters, which is a curse for our fragile environment.
Last year India had in total over 48,000 idols of Lord Ganesh. These idols were immersed in the sea, ponds and artificial lakes in and around Mumbai city on the sixth day of the Ganpati festival.
During this time across India, one can find innumerable idols of Ganesha, of all sizes, left on the streets after the fun and festivity is over. They are left to be picked up by the city municipality to clean up the space. This leaves one baffled and angry. As we mindlessly create more idols that are not environmentally conscious, we forget the unheard cries of the choked Indian lakes and the seas that are unable to handle the toxicity it has to endure. Some idols are over 10 ft in height.
Idols in the past were made with clay and sandalwood paste, using vegetable dyes to add colour. Now to reduce the work and costs, plaster of paris is used. Which we all know is not a naturally occurring material. This is a calcium sulfate hemihydrate and it takes years to fully dissolve. The chemical paints used to make the idols ostentatious, contain heavy metals like mercury and lead, which is not dissolvable at all.
It is imperative that the chant of Ganpati Bappa Moreya now, must also address, the changing world situation, keeping in mind that the holy rivers are unable to articulate their pain for the death of marine life, with the consequences of human enjoyment in the name of religion.
Mohua Chinappa is an author, a podcaster and the founder of NARI, a community that endeavours to address the unheard voices of the 160 million homemakers in India.