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Make HIM eco-friendly

If you want to add a touch of the earth for your puja this year, there are the environment-friendly terracotta Ganesha idols mostly in monotones.



An aged artisan giving finishing touches to an idol of Lord Ganesha ---Photos: K.R. Deepak

Come September, it is time to worship Lord Vinayaka, the remover of all obstacles. Numerous community mandaps have sprung up all over the city, enshrining the elephant-faced God in His myriad forms. Painted Ganesha idols adorn homes. Popularly known as Vignaharta, He is a tutelary figure who can ward off ill omens from the path of His devotees.

Prologue

Vinayaka Chavithi celebration, in its present form, was re-invented in the late 19th century by Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, as a symbol of resistance to the British colonial regime, in Pune. Tilak had transformed the domestic and private idiom of worship into a collective and public rite of self-assertion.

Since then the beloved God occupies a special place in the hearts of the people in the country. The son of Parvati and Siva is invoked at the beginning of every enterprise: writers, especially, revere him as the greatest of scribes, who tirelessly wrote out the epic Mahabharata to the sage Vyasa's dictation.

The eternal, the ephemeral and the iconic are woven together in Ganesh festivity. The dance is never still, the colour floats in the air and the dreams of the revellers lift into the sky: the giddy lightness of the festival helps to ease the oppressive heaviness of an otherwise quotidian life.

Many permutations of the Lord's image take place during the festival. With the changing times, Vinayaka Chavithi reflects the graph of collective aspirations, the changing nuances of popular taste and style. Human ingenuity breaches the boundaries between the local and the global, the hereditary and the contemporary.

The skill in creating such an art form motivated S. Murali, a native of Machilipatnam, to be in the business for the past 30 years in Dondaparthi. He creates the myriad artistic forms of Hindu gods splashed with colours from plaster of paris and coconut fibre. The moulded figures are given fine finishing touches and coloured with enamel paints. The sizes of the magnificent idols range from four feet to nine-and-half feet. The biggest idol costs Rs.4,000 while the smallest Rs.700.

"In the last few years, festivals have become more commercialised and our business has increased. But we are able to make a marginal profit only as the costs of plaster of paris and coconut fibre have gone up, too," says Murali. Ten workers assist him, while he supervises the whole procedure that starts two months ahead of the festival. "We make about 30 big idols every year. But sometimes the materials go waste," he complains. He gets orders from Gajuwaka and Anandapuram for the big idols.

S. Venkateswara Rao, 74, gives the idols that special touch which manifests the Lord in His different majestic forms. He has been making idols for the past 10 years. "In the olden days we used to make all clay idols and use powder paints instead of enamel paints. The whole family would be involved in the business," he recalls. The simple rituals take on different colours with each passing year and that reflects on the extravagance of the festival, he muses.


Maharashtra Mandal celebrates the ten-day festival with religious fervour. It upholds the traditional culture and heritage with various celebrations, programmes, dramas and classical music performances. "We have the morning and evening harathis. Special Konkani prasadams are prepared from coconut, jaggery, cashew, moong dal and ghee," says one of its members, Sudha Prabhu. Apart from this, the Mandal organises various cultural programmes on the last three days of the festival.

Shri Chaitanya Vinayak Seva Mandal celebrates the festival in Ganesha temple in Krantinagar near Malkapuram. They organise orchestra and Marathi dance programme 'lavani' every year. The chant and the slogan mingle in the whirl of participation, as worshippers throng around the icon to get the blessings of the Lord.

Eco-friendly Ganeshas

If you want to add a touch of the earth for your puja this year, there are the environment-friendly terracotta Ganesha idols mostly in monotones. Ethnic and slightly ornate, they are neatly sculpted out of clay. "We sell these medium sized clay idols in wholesale for Rs.1.50 to Rs.10 a piece depending on the size," says Laxmi who has been in the business for the last 40 years in Akkayyapalem Road. She, along with her family members, makes around 1,500 pieces every year.

So, why not have concern for environment uppermost on our minds this year and go for the terracotta idols?

The Lord who is the dispeller of all stumbling blocks, will surely shower His blessings on those who do not create more obstacles for this earth!

The immersion of idols marks the culmination of a cycle of energy that has run the course from arousal to aftermath. In the presence of the Lord, distinctions between the elite and the subaltern and the urban and the rural stand abrogated by a common need for grace and assurance.

NIVEDITA GANGULY

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