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Immersion of big idols at Mumbai’s Chowpatty beach:
Introduced to join Indians together during the times of the British, its uniting origins probably explain why the festival is popular across Indian cultures and communities even today. Millions queue up for Ganpati viewings at the big temples every year and donate generously.
Idols lined up at the beach in Tarkarli:
Hindustan Times ran a revenue comparison on 8 th September 2009 of Mumbai’s three biggest Ganpati temples titled “Crores and Still Counting.” The Lalbaugcha Raja collected Rs. 4.57 crore ($942,000) in cash (and is still counting) plus various gold and silver jewellery items; the GSB Seva Mandal collected over Rs. 4.25 crore ($877,000) in cash, gold and silver ornaments and two gold ears for Ganesh. The GSB Samiti does not disclose the amount of donations but confirmed that it received two arms and legs for Ganesh made of gold.
Where does the money go? The jewellery is usually auctioned off and all money collected used for sponsoring education and medical aid for the underprivileged, often students and seniors.
Even after a few sleepless nights, it is hard not to be taken in by the colours, crowds and the festival atmosphere and join in the shouts of “Ganpatti bappa … morya“ – Ganesh, Father, come soon again next year!
Don’t lose your head during Ganpati:
All’s well that ends well one could say but what a rude awakening the next morning. My beach stroll turned into a nightmare as I ducked wilted flower garlands, plastic bags, slow-rotting plaster-of-Paris idol pieces and other festival garbage that seemed to be everywhere. Even the hardy crew of sanitation workers cleaning the beach every day could not keep up: half the mess still remained after their time was up.
Says Aditi Nadkarni, contemporary film critic, poet and cancer researcher, on her blog desicritics:
“Plaster Of Paris is much cheaper than clay but unfortunately less soluble in water. As a result the Ganesh idol that has been treated like a beloved houseguest by so many faithful devotees, sits at the bottom of the ocean, slow disintegration of the plaster releasing toxic elements into the water. The chemicals used in painting the idol contain hazardous mercury and cadmium metals. As the magnificent four arms, golden crowns and loving brown eyes of the elephant god crumble into the seawater, the ocean’s flora and fauna suffer from the sudden increase in acidity and toxicity of the water. For years this issue has been tap-danced around to protect religious sentiment.”
Every year, the cries for an environmentally friendly Ganpati get a bit louder and more people opt for soluble clay or paper mache Ganpatis and symbolic immersions instead of dumping everything in the sea. Schools are really at the forefront of spreading the message here but like all grassroots movements, it will take time. And as long as plaster-of-Paris idols are considerably cheaper, easier and faster to mass produce than the greener alternatives, nothing much will change. In a country where so many people have so little, splurging on Ganpati cannot include going green until going green provides the cheaper alternative.
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