“Ganesh Chathurthi” is a festival which is celebrated throughout the length and breadth of India, but I guess nowhere else is it celebrated with as much grandeur as in Maharashtra, especially Mumbai. It is amazing to see how the Ganesha idols are prepared for this pompous festival. When you go around at this time in Mumbai, you can see the idols of Ganesha from very tiny to very large being made out of mainly plaster of Paris and being filled with coconut husk; the only raw material that is bio-degradable on the body of the idol.
I was quite fascinated with the preparations of the Ganesha that I decided to stop by a few places, where they actually blew life into these enormous idols. And more so, I wanted my little girl, who is intrigued by anything to do with colour and jewels, to see these huge idols being adorned.
When we actually hit upon a place where the Ganeshas were being given life, I was awestruck by the details I saw.
The Ganesha who is considered to be a happy, cheerful God who breaks all obstacles and evils and helps in achieving everything in life, seems to take a new style or “Avatar” every year. He is invoked traditionally at the beginning of any new venture or at the start of travel and is worshipped for ten days during the “ Ganesh Chathurthi” or “Vinayaka Chathurthi”, which includes installation of the idol at home or in a community, worship, and finally the immersion in water at the end of the festival.
The Ganesha idols undergo so much of stylisation and ornamentation depending on the style of the “kaarigar”(craftsman) who works on it. It was absolutely amazing to see how different styles of faces and hair were taken according to the needs of the clients or the caprice of the artist.
There was a Ganesha who had long hair, another one who looked like his masculine father; lord Shiva.Yet another Ganesha who adorned a peacock feather like his friend Lord Krishna. And even a mix of Lord Shiva and Lord Krishna with both a crescent and a peacock feather on the hair. Shockingly, there was also a Ganesha who was painted in a glittery green who actually kind of looked eerie to me. God Ganesha alone knows what mental psyche the artist was in, when painting this or, was it an order from an experimental client? The humongous Ganeshas who were being assembled looked very naive in their blush skin colour and nothing else till they were adorned with clothes and jewellery .And then they begin to look ostentatious as thousands would gather to worship them. The fabric folds of his “Dhoti “or clothing were painted in intricate details and looked quite luxurious and all “bling”! These definitely would look exceptionally attractive in the artificial lights of the “Mandals”(temporary sheds). I couldn’t help but notice the connection between the Ganeshas and “Bollywood” (Indian; mainly Hindi cinema world) because of all the shimmer and glamour. But then, Mumbai is all about life, cinema and festivities.
The jewels that the Ganesha adorned were all glittery and bright and one could easily see the glamorous lifestyle of the God. I felt that Lord Ganesha was indeed a ” fashion Icon” in the eyes of all his devotees.
NOTE TO ALL OF US; RESPONSIBLE INHABITANTS OF MOTHER EARTH.
The most serious impact of the festival is due to the immersion of idols made of the plaster of Paris into lakes, rivers and the sea. Traditionally, the idol was sculpted out of mud taken from nearby one’s home or community. After the festival, it was returned to the Earth by immersing it in a nearby water body. This cycle was meant to represent the cycle of creation and dissolution in nature.
However, as the production of Ganesha idols on a commercial basis grew, the earthen or natural clay was replaced by plaster of Paris, which is a manmade material; easier to mould, lighter and less expensive than clay, but non -biodegradable and insoluble in water.
Recently there have been new initiatives sponsored by some state governments to produce clay Ganesha idols and other steps like recycling the plastic idols, succumbing to only a symbolic immersion, creative use of other bio-degradable materials such as papier-mâché to create the idols.
To handle religious sentiments sensitively, some temples and spiritual groups have taken up the cause.
Well! The responsibility rests heavily on each one of our shoulders to take up the cause and encourage the use of bio-degradable raw material and save this beautiful earth from further abuse so that our children can still celebrate these festivals with love and peace.