The Gujarat government, which has been promoting eco-friendly clay idols during festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi since 2015, has interestingly allowed sculptors to use fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP), Plaster of Paris (POP) or any other “suitable” material for making Ma Narmada idols for its grand Ma Narmada Mahotsav.
The preparations for the Ma Narmada Mahotsav, which was scheduled to start from July 27 but had to be postponed due flood situation in the state, are on in full swing. As many as 85 idols, depicting the river in form of a goddess, will be throned on several villages.
According to the state government orders, the Narmada idol, which should be 3.25 ft high, should be seated on a lotus on the back of a crocodile. The goddess should hold a Shivlinga, shankh (conch shell) and trishul in three of her four hands. About the material to be used for crafting the idols, the specification states that the sculptors should use FRP, POP, metal, ceramic or others.
For a state government that has gone on an overdrive to promote eco-friendly clay idols, the specifications seem contrary to its policy. Since 2015, the state government has been creating awareness and promoting eco-friendly clay idols with the help of hoardings and free workshops in various cities like Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara. It even distributed free kits and clay to the idol makers. In many cities, including Vadodara, police have prohibited POP Ganesh idols.
According to the Vadodara district BJP leaders, 15 idols have been made locally. A senior BJP leader said they had received an instruction to keep 15 idols ready for the district. “Of these, six have been made in the city. The sculptors were free to make idols with the most suitable materials and there is no compulsion to use POP only. The government will accept any material so long the idol matches the dimensions.”
A sculptor in Vadodara, who has delivered six idols, said, the material specified in the instructions like FRP and ceramics are even more hazardous than POP. “It is not practical to use FRP and ceramics. At the same time, since the raths have to move around villages, clay idols may not withstand heavy rain. POP idols are sturdier and therefore, we have gone with the instructions using the material with water-proof paints.”
The idols are now ready and awaiting further instructions from the state government.
BJP leaders said that the idols would be immersed as per the rituals, but it had not yet been decided if a separate pond would be created for the same.
Last week, a high-level committee of the state government held a meeting to finalise the plans for the rath yatra and its culmination event, which it is planning on August 12 at Sardar Sarovar Dam in Narmada district, likely to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. State officials said the yatra was likely to start from August first week.
Asked about state government’s instruction on using POP, Deputy CM Nitin Patel denied using the material for Narmada idols. When pointed out that a soft prototype of the idol was presented during a programme on July 20, attended by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Patel himself at Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar, he said, “Proper care will be taken to make sure the environment is not damaged.” He did not elaborate further.
Last week, Patel visited Dabhoi in Vadodara to take stock of the preparations for Prime Minister Modi’s visit. According to party sources, the district administration has been instructed to keep at least six functional helipads available for use as several chief ministers, cabinet ministers and celebrities are expected to arrive.
Vadodara Collector P Bharati, who accompanied Patel to Dabhoi, said, “We currently have six helipads available. Out of these, three will be reserved for Prime Minister Modi. We have been told that many dignitaries will be arriving and will need landing space, but we do not have a list of names.”
Meanwhile, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam officials said that the department has been asked to monitor the water level of the Dam on a daily basis. An official said, “The current level of Narmada is about 119 meters. We are expecting the level to rise significantly by August 12 as Madhya Pradesh will release water once its dams reach full capacity. It will then make a scenic backdrop for the puja to be conducted by the Prime Minister.”