By Kartik Bajoria
Ganesh Chaturthi, like most of India’s glorious festivals, is celebrated with much fervour. For parents, it is to highlight the mythological and cultural significance of the festival, rather than the pomp and show, which in most cases, also makes for an environmental disaster. There are many ways to make children more sensitive by celebrating an eco-friendly festival.
Choose the right idol
It all begins with choosing the right idol. An overwhelming majority of Ganesha idols are made from materials that are simply harmful for the environment. It would be wise to consider a more eco-friendly idol. We could buy an organic/eco-friendly idol rather than the more readily available, mass-made idols, which can also be needlessly expensive. Parents can encourage kids by getting a group of them to make their own Ganesha idol using eco-friendly materials and colours.
Number of idols and pandals
Aren’t festivals all about bringing people together and celebrating our shared oneness? If we agree with this, then it will be easy to pool in resources and dramatically reduce the number of idols and separate pandals that we set up during the Ganesh Festival. Families, friends, neighbourhoods should come together, and rather than every home/colony getting multiple idols and the entire paraphernalia, large groups invest in one idol and one set-up. Not only will this significantly reduce environmental impact, it will also serve as a great example of sharing to children.
Lights and colours are the primary resources we turn to while decorating our homes and public areas during festival time. Make wonderful Rangoli patterns using only organic colours that don’t harm the planet. A combination of low-energy LED lighting instead of less-energy-efficient bulbs, combined with sparing use of lights, will definitely go a long way in celebrating responsibly.
With literally lakhs of devotees headed for the ocean or a water body for immersing the idol, the pollution caused by this event annually is simply irreversible. The point of a festival is to communicate its essence and spirit, not get blinded by the fanfare and flourish. Why not consider therefore, a more symbolic immersion? It can simply be done in a tub or bucket at home. By adopting this method, we would have explained the symbolism to our children while preventing harm to our invaluable water resources.
Make kids agents of change
Why not gather the neighbourhood kids and explain the various environmental pitfalls of a regular Ganesh Chaturthi? Ask them to get residents to sign a petition that binds them to a number of eco-friendly measures while celebrating the Ganesh Chaturthi. This will introduce children to the importance of being eco-friendly and make them catalysts of change as well.
(Kartik Bajoria is a writer, educator and moderator.)