OMG, please save us!

S Madhusudhana Rao

Hyderabadis have started giving a fond farewell to Ganapathi, the elephant-headed God on Sunday, immersing him in city lakes, against the wishes of citizens concerned with environment and “keep water bodies clean” activists. However, there is a perceptible change among devotees as many of them have opted for so-called eco-friendly idols, though they are not so in reality. The only saving grace is they were not made of heavy metal. Instead, Plaster of Paris and several coats of paints had been used for glitter and glamour. When these idols were immersed, still the substances pollute the water bodies.

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S Madhusudhana Rao

Thousands of idols of various sizes are either tossed or dropped into lakes and ponds dotting different areas in the twin cities. No doubt, immediately after they go down under the waters, divers and scrap-dealers would bring them up, dismember and cart the parts away to various points for recycling. This exercise is to minimize pollution in the water bodies, make them breathe with life and not to silt them with thousands of Vinayaka idols whose toxic body paints can turn the waters into poisonous cocktails of mercury, lead, arsenic, etc.

Though most of the immersed giant idols are retrieved, small ones, made of insoluble materials will remain in the water body polluting it heavily. Add to these, tonnes of pooja materias thrown into the water, choking the lake or pond for days to come. Polluting stagnant water in large scale is detrimental to the health of lake as well as to humans as the rotten smell contaminates the oxygen content around. These are all preliminary lessons in health and environment; still none follows and pollutes the waters near and around us with gay abandon. There are laws and court strictures, of course, to curb such practices; but they are observed more in breach than in practice.

To strike a balance between our celebrations, ritualistic practices and disposing of the residuary materials is not difficult, provided there is a will on the part of participants and organizers of mega Ganesh events. Or else, we have to pray to Lord Ganesha to save us from pollution after performing the pooja.

The ritual of discarding the idol after pooja is as ancient as the legend of the birth of Ganesh, a story every devotee is familiar with. It is said that every year a new idol has to be used for pooja and after it is over the deity has to be immersed in a water body like pond, lake, stream, river, sea, etc to make the clay idol disintegrate and become an integral part of the nature.

It is believed that since all the Ganesh idols were made of clay in the olden days they absorb all the negative vibes and are unsuitable for keeping at home. So, they have to be kept out of home and the best way is to dispose them of in water bodies. In rural areas, some people leave Ganesh idols in farms or under trees in backyards of their homes for luck and prosperity.

Over the years, religious practices, traditions, social and cultural ethos and values have changed so drastically that what is supposed to be a simple family worship has become a public affair with an ever increasing outpouring of adoration for the God of all reasons.

Decades ago, the norm was to keep the clay idols palm sized; now an attempt has to be made to secure small and handy Ganeshas made of black or red soil without any frills. Most of the time what is sold in the market during the pooja time is idols made of many fancy materials other than the traditional raw material using all sorts of chemical paints to make the little Lord attractive.  Whether he needs so many embellishments is a different matter but he is made to appear in various poses and avatars whose number has been increasing year after year.

The forms, the costumes and the attires in which Lord Ganesh appear every year are interesting. Surely, he has been made a fashion icon and he is the only god in the Hindu pantheon to adapt himself to any style in a jiffy. What’s more interesting is , he can even wear designer clothes, jeans, hats, T-shirts, suits in all hues and shoes and rock and roll with his constant companion rodent. This year, he turned the hero of blockbuster movie Baahubali, a cricketer, Batman and finally embraced the selfie fad! He was depicted as taking a selfie with Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati!

Ganesha’s accommodative spirit is worth emulating by minions who worship him. Without minding his physical form, he can do anything that is imaginatively human. Creativity is the spur of Ganesh avatar and ingenuous artists can create him in myriad forms, stressing the underlying philosophy that the Supreme can exist in any form, size doesn’t matter. What’s important is faith and devotion, not pomp and exhibitionism, though they have become the hallmarks of modern worship.

Also, the way Vinayaka, the God whom the faithful worship before launching a new venture in the belief that he will dispel evil and make the endeavor a success, is ridiculed in cartoons, portraits and in various image forms is abhorrent.

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