After Ganesha goes

With the 5th day of Ganesha Chaturthi (2nd September) past us, the festival in Bangalore has more-or-less ended for the year. Government departments and citizen groups that are closely associated with lakes must be reviewing the impact of the festival on the water bodies.

In recent years, the BBMP, NGOs and other local groups have been putting in a lot of effort before the festival, educating people about the use eco-friendly idols, paints and decorations, and encouraging them to do home immersions so that water bodies are not burdened. Most of the lake groups are well prepared for the festival, planning for it days in advance.  

At Kaikondrahalli Lake, a separate kalyani was readied with water for the immersion, and idols were not permitted in the main lake. The first couple of days of the festival saw about 1100 immersions, including large idols, and the security guards were able to stop miscreants who wanted to immerse their idols in the main lake.

Kaikondrahalli Lake immersion rules

At Devarabisanahalli Lake, a special effort was made to provide sorting bins for the different accessories that accompany the Ganesha idols. Small drums were provided for immersion. While the small idols went into the drums, the large idols, mostly of PoP (Plaster of Paris) were immersed in the lake with festive fervour. Pallavi Singh, one of the ‘guardians’ of the lake said, “While the crowd cheered, we watched on so helplessly. Sadly, we could not save the lake completely from chemical colors.” 

Sorting bins at Devarabisanahalli Lake

A clay Ganesha being immersed in a drum. It dissolves in no time!

A large PoP idol being led into Devarabisanahalli Lake

Wonder how many of the large idol devotees go back to the lake to see how their Ganeshas are doing? My guess is none. For if they did, they wouldn’t use such idols again, given the humiliation Ganesha is subjected to. 

Ganeshas hauled out of Devarabisanahalli Lake

PoP idols (of any size) do not dissolve in water, and if they do not sink to the bottom of the lake, they float up and need to be taken out of the water, much the same way they were put in. The people who retrieve the idols need to be paid, and if the idols are heavy, they require cranes to be lifted out. Further, after these undissolved idols and accessories are retrieved from the lake or kalyani, they have nowhere to be taken to, for there are no designated dumping places, no Mandur to go to. Many of the paints on these idols are toxic and pollute the water, home to fishes, birds and other life forms. Not to mention the groundwater that feeds our wells and borewells.   

What can be done better next year?
PoP idols for immersion need to be banned. If people really like the PoP idols they can be advised to keep them for permanent worship. To make this possible, government intervention and religious leader influence is clearly required. Preparations for the festival in terms of making the statues start months in advance, which means that now is the time to get in a legislation, to be implemented with immediate effect. This will give people in the business enough time to change their ways and leave no room for protests and the excuse of hurting sentiments. Otherwise, we will read the same stories and see the same pictures next year too.    

Pics of Devarabisanahalli Lake – courtesy Pallavi Singh

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