Ganesh Chaturthi, especially in Maharashtra is impatiently awaited by millions of devotees eager to host Lord Ganesha at their homes. The festival binds people from all walks of life together with the thread of faith and spirituality. Everyone is joyously drowned in the colours bursting from all the lights and decors, aroma rising in kitchens from all the finger-licking delicacies, traditional attires, rituals, countless people paying visits, passionate devotional music, vibrant chanting of mantras and Aarti, humorously mad Ganpati dance on Nashik dhols and tashas, along with the unmatchable intuition of feeling Lord Ganesha around you, graciously enjoying the hospitality. We thoroughly enjoy the festival, don’t we?
What about its dark side, aroused from our celebrations, that we’ve been ignorantly blind towards?
Attention needs to be diverted towards the aftermath of the festival. Last year around 120 tonnes of waste was collected after the festival from Pune alone. Even when Pune has comparatively many eco-friendly measures already in practice. The sight of broken arms, trunks, and heads of our beloved Ganpati lying as waste at a beach, which should aptly be called a dump yard, for the time being, is devastating.
How selfish is it to lovingly bring Ganpati at home and devotionally serve him for a stipulated period for his blessings, only to wash hands off its responsibility once it is immersed! Do we realize how much of bloodshed takes place beneath the sea waters because of the chemicals used in the making of the idol? Which god would approve of us killing any of its precious creation in the name of faith? Our joy in celebrating the festival comes at the cost of many lives.
One progressive step towards controlling this environmental ruination is to shift to eco-friendly idols. With increasing awareness, many people have adopted this practice. However, most eco-friendly idols are also not sin-free as the colours used to paint them are oil-paints which is insoluble in water. Now, you and I would understand the gravity of this situation but stand without any alternative. After all, we cannot refrain from celebrating the festival right?
What if I tell you that there is a solution, which is 100% environment-friendly, and the best part is that you get to keep Ganesha closer to you forever. It’s called “Tree Ganesha”, an initiative by Dattadri Kothur, a resident of Worli, Mumbai. The concept is straightforward- they make the idols with pure red soil (no, it is not prone to breaking) without any colours. Only eyes are painted with watercolour. Each idol is sold with a pot and seeds. During Visarjan, instead of immersing the idol into the sea one simply has to sprinkle water over the idol and the mud gets settled in the pot, and a few days later a beautiful plant is born. A plant that literally carries the essence and blessing of our beloved Ganesha.
Speaking about his journey to YourStory, Dattadri, an ardent Ganesha devotee says,
Every visarjan we visit the Chowpatty to immerse our idol and every year the damage we give back to the water bodies in the name of festivals is absurd and hence I came up with this idea.
Dattadri, a Senior Artist at an art agency is also a qualified commercial artist. He, and his team of 8 talented artists, every year since 2016 has been making and selling Tree Ganeshas in Mumbai & Pune. Not just the concept, but the name “Tree Ganesha” itself has a sweet back story.
The name ‘Tree Ganesh’ came up when we kept chanting the word Shree Ganesh, which we usually chant before starting a new project. Since it rhymed and yet reflected the theme, we chose to call our initiative by this name.
His family has been welcoming Ganesha at home every year, and in 2015 he decided to make his own idol that would be 100% eco-friendly. He shared the video of its making with his friends and relatives on WhatsApp groups to encourage them to adopt green practices. Mighty impressed, his kith and kin shared the video on Facebook and Youtube, where people loved the idea. Dattadri soon realized the commercial aspect of his idea and set up a website. In its inception year itself, Tree Ganesha received 500 confirmed orders, and over 4000 people requesting to extend the deadline for accepting the order. His first year earned him a profit of Rs. 3 lakhs which he re-invested in the business for scaling up his operations.
I created a Whatsapp group of 60 people to share the project and I never realised my friends put up the video on Facebook and it received an overwhelming response. Today, my entire street knows who I am and am positive about reaching out to many more people, Dattadri happily beams.
All the idols are made from red soil acquired from the slums of Dharavi. After initial moulding, the idol is stuffed with organic fertilizer and seeds, purchased from a nursery in Byculla.
After a lot of research, I realised that the lady’s finger is one plant that is not seasonal and requires less maintenance and space, and hence I opted for it.
Dattadri reveals that the day he sells one lakh Tree Ganeshas he would consider his initiative a success as it would also translate into a successful plantation of one lakh plants.
We applaud and express gratitude to Dattadri Kothur for coming up with Tree Ganesha. His efforts have provided us with an opportunity to rid ourselves of the guilt and sin of damaging nature, god’s invaluable lifeline for the survival of mankind. Besides, the thought of having Ganesha all-year-round in the form of a plant is so heart-warming. It’s a perfect way to carry forward our culture, faith, and the happiness that Ganesh Chaturthi brings along with nature.
Lord Ganesha brings good luck and prosperity. However, can mankind prosper by creating adversity in nature? the one Whose name is taken before the inception of any work should not become the reason for any devastation! Would Lord Ganesha ever forgive us for damaging mother nature in the name of his worship?
Note: You can visit the website of Tree Ganesha to check out their idols and make online bookings.