One would certainly not find a Hindu who is not familiar with the importance of Lord Ganesh in Hindu mythology. Seek advice from any practicing Hindu who will most likely say- Facing any obstacles? Seek blessings from the great ‘Vignaharta’- Lord Ganesha. Starting a new task? Seek blessings from  ‘The God of beginnings’ . Want to be blessed with intellect and wisdom? Worship the revered ‘Vidyavaridhi’-Lord Ganesha. No doubt we call him the great ‘Vinayaka’- Lord of all.

As per Hindu mythology, Lord Ganesha is the son of the great Lord Shiva and mighty Goddess Parvati. Mythology says that Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated because Lord Ganesh returned to Mount Kailash to join his parents Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati on the last day of the festival. Ganesh Chaturthi, if observed minutely will showcase the inevitable cycle of birth, life and death. Also, a famous belief says that the idol of the Ganesha also takes away with it the various obstacles of the house when immersed.

Who doesn’t want an obstacle less life and since Lord Ganesha’s idol is believed to take away all pains and obstacles along with it while being immersed, no doubt why every year, people anticipate the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi.

Ganesh Chaturthi has three phases: -

1. The installation of Ganesh idols- Colorful Ganesh idols are installed including chanting of Vedic hymns and Hindu texts.

2. Retaining Ganesh idols and offering daily prayers, preparing and distributing prasad after the daily prayers, prasad mostly include sweets such as modaka as it is believed to be a favorite of Lord Ganesh.

3.The immersion of Ganesh idols- The festival ends on the tenth day after start popularly called Ganesh Visarjan, when the idol is carried in a public procession with celebrations and immersed in a nearby body of water such as a river or sea.

The intent is pious and pure but let us understand what pain our environment goes through in the process. Immersed in the zeal and passion of the festival, we forget the highly hazardous impact of the immersion of idols on environment.

To begin with let us ponder over the fact that is it that Lord Ganesh in whom we have all our belief, relies upon an idol to take away all our obstacles? Why do we rely over an idol generally made up of clay, Plaster of Paris (POP), plastic and cement and Toxic paints used in decoration to help us in our connection to almighty? We need to understand that Lord Ganesha is- ‘Achintya’ – beyond thought, ‘Avyakta’ – beyond expression, ‘Ananta’ – eternal. Is it that beautifying an idol with lots of artificial substances can represent something which is eternal, beyond thought and expression?

After the immersion, the ingredients of the statue primarily Plaster Of Paris do not dissolve in water immediately and can take years depending upon the size of idol to dissolve. This causes a drastic reduction in the oxygen level and increase in the acid content of water and hampers the survival of aquatic organisms. Furthermore, noteworthy is that the idols are often decked with flowers, plastic and other decorating agents not made up of ecofriendly materials. All this solid waste certainly strains our already polluted rivers and lakes. Even the flowers often have pesticides that impact water bodies’ purity.

We need to strike a balance between our belief system and environmental awareness. We need to ensure that we use eco-friendly clay idols painted with natural colors and do not immerse any plastic waste along with the clay Ganesha idol. Another alternative can be symbolically sprinkling water on the Ganesh idol. One can also immerse Ganesha idol in a bucket of water at home and then use it to water plants. We can use permanent idols made of stone and perform a symbolic immersion and reuse the idol each year.

Important is to realize that it is our intentions and prayers which is going to help us lead a happy life and not the environment impacting procession that we think is acting as a tool to taking away our obstacles. It is our belief that will help us at the end and no idol in the world for that matter has the capacity to take away our pains. It is the Lord Almighty who has the capacity to do so and lord shall not be happy with something which is impacting his ultimate creation-This world.

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