For the first time in the 126-year history of sarvajanik (public) Ganeshotsav celebrations, a prominent association will unveil gigantic ‘eco-friendly’ idol of Lord Ganesha, here next week.
The 22×19 feet idol, with Lord Ganesha shown in a gentle, but striking, sitting pose, was commissioned by the Tejukaya Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Trust (TSGT), in the Lalbaug area.
“After a lot of deliberations, we decided to forego the regular inexpensive Plaster of Paris (PoP) idol in favour of an eco-friendly one this year. We expect it to be a trend-setter and shall continue to make only eco-friendly idols henceforth,” TSGT Vice-President Ashish C. Rampure told IANS.
The approximately 1.20-tonne idol has been designed and crafted by legendary artist Rajan Zad, known for making huge idols for different organizations across Maharashtra.
“Initially, he made a clay mould of the Tejukayacha Raja Ganesh idol and then covered that with paper mâché, a sticky mixture comprising ordinary paper mixed with either flour or glue or water.
“Then the idol took shape with several layers of paper mâché to make it a solid structure. It’s stone-hard but can easily dissolve in water, barely within an hour,” Rampure said.
However, the idol cost went up to Rs 12,00,000, against the normal Rs 400,000 for a regular clay idol of this size. The rise in cost is also attributed to the total absence of clay moulds in the market for making eco-friendly Ganesh idols, and the long-time taken to dry it, according to Zad.
After the idol was dried, it was painted with natural watercolors to bring out the magical qualities of the Lord Ganesha.
The idol will be unveiled on Monday, the first day of the 10-day festival of Ganeshotsav across Maharashtra and other parts of India.
Another specialty of the TSGT idol is it’s ‘manually immersed’ instead of sliding it of rails in the Arabian Sea off Girgaum Chowpatty on Anant Chaturdashi, the final day of the festival that falls on September 12 this year.
“After careful planning, the idol is transported in a truck to the beach-front. From there, around 350-400 trained volunteers join hands to carry the idol on shoulders, right into the water where it’s gently immersed,” said Rampure.
The BrihanMumbai Sarvanajik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti (BSGSS) chief Naresh Dahibhavkar termed the TSGT’s efforts as “nothing short of revolutionary”.
“Along with the government, we have also been appealing associations to switch to eco-friendly idols to protect seas, rivers, lakes, ponds, wells and other water bodies. We are happy that TSGT has taken this step, which will inspire other associations,” Dahibhavkar told IANS.
However, the Lalbaug-cha Raja Sarvanjik Ganeshotsav Mandal (LRSGM), which hosts the world-famous ‘Lalbaug-cha Raja’, has no immediate plans to switch to the eco-friendly idol.
“We are entering the 86th year of celebrations this year, and we shall continue with the traditional PoP idols,” LRSGM chief Balasaheb Kamble told IANS.
Nevertheless, organizers of the Lalbaug-cha Raja create ecology awareness. Its 2018 celebration theme was ‘save the environment’ and it includes a lot of eco-friendly measures during the celebrations.
According to idol-makers, roughly one-third of idols sold are made of eco-friendly materials, and it is increasing every year as awareness and concern for environment deepens.
Dahibhavkar is hopeful that taking a cue from TSGT, other mandals that display mega-idols, would be inspired to switch over to eco-friendly idols from next year.