According to Hindu mythology, the universe is constituted of five key elements or ‘Panch Mahabhuta‘ namely Bhumi, Jal, Agni, Pavan and Akash (Earth, Water, Fire, Air And Sky). It was believed that any imbalance in these elements would have dire consequences on our universe and in turn the earthlings. And today we find ourselves trapped in a situation where not only our daily activities but our modern practices during holy festivals contribute no less to the deterioration of the environment.
India is a land of myriad festivals owing to its rich cultural diversity. The latter half of the year brings with it the season of festivities filling the air with love, goodwill, and happiness. Amidst all the celebrations, little are we conscious of the damage we are doing as a result of advancement in our worship styles.
Idol worship has been at the root of various cultures in India. But the increasing use of Plaster of Paris (POP), varnish, acrylic paint not only intervenes the aerobic and anaerobic biological processes but also increases the concentration of heavy metals like lead, chromium and cadmium in our water bodies to an extent that can cause skin diseases and even damage brain cells.
Plaster of Paris (PoP), which takes several months to get dissolved, increases the hardness of water. The organic matter that adorns the idols, on decomposition increases the nitrate and phosphate concentration contributing to eutrophication, which depletes dissolved oxygen for aquatic life. The increase of Respirable Suspended Particulate Material (RSPM) at an alarming rate due to the bursting of crackers is a serious matter of concern. Time and again, ample awareness programs have been organized by school and college bodies and various NGOs (to name a few we have Youth for Seva, To Make A Difference and SPROUTS Environment Trust) across the country. But unless the government lays down strict laws to curb habits harming the environment, the real impact would still be unseen.
Even though National Green Tribunal directed that “idol immersion would be allowed only of the ones which are made from biodegradable material and not plastic/Plaster of Paris,” but the scenario at the banks on the day of immersion tells a different tale. With no external bodies assigned to check the idols and no facilities like immersion tanks being provided for immersing PoP idols, the devotees have no alternative but to immerse them in lakes, rivers and oceans to make sure it doesn’t hurt religious sentiments.
As PoP idols come at a cheaper price compared to the clay ones, scrapping them completely would be a challenging task. The government can provide compensation to idol makers that would encourage them to switch to clay idols. National, as well as local newspapers and television channels can also play a major role inculcating environmental awareness. Also, the art of idol making using clay needs to be encouraged at a larger scale through workshops conducted at various levels. Awards, similar to Prakriti Award in Guwahati, must be presented to initiate as well as encourage eco-friendly pujas by state governments. Immersion of idols must be allowed only as per guidelines laid by the Central Pollution Control Board in 2010. Every little effort made by the government and denizens to save the environment matters.
Since these pujas and pandals are organized by various local committees, our donations could help them organize eco-friendly pujas. People need to be taught and encouraged about the reuse of rough structures made of wood and hay post the immersion. NASA’s satellite caught the country shining bright, beautifully from space during Diwali. But the country would shine brighter if we succeed in celebrating Diwali with earthen pots and lights. Apart from environmental benefits, imagine how many low-income families that sell diyas and other earthenware can benefit with a single effort. While lighting our own house, we can light up theirs too. Moreover, giving alms to the poor instead of shelling out on crackers could earn you extra ‘Karmic’ brownie points.
So let’s not wreck our planet anymore. It’s time to ‘Go Eco’.