Indians add green touch to religious festivals
By Rina Chandran and Sujoy Dhar
MUMBAI (Reuters Life!) - Few events can rival the ancient rituals and riotous color of India's religious festivals. This year, the months-long celebration season is also becoming eco-friendly.
Alarmed by the high levels of pollution caused by firecrackers, toxic paints and idols made of non-recyclable material, schools, environmentalists and some states are encouraging "greener" celebrations.
In Mumbai, where the 10-day festival for the elephant-headed Ganesha is underway with giant, colored idols and noisy street parties, radio and TV stations are airing environmental messages and school children are learning to make eco-friendly idols.
The statues, made of brightly painted plaster of Paris, are usually immersed in the sea or a lake after a lively procession that can sometimes take half a day to navigate the choked streets, and which ultimately leaves dismembered idols strewn along the shore.
But a growing number of Indians are opting for smaller clay idols which they immerse in water at home.
"It's easier to make an idol from plaster of Paris and they usually also look nicer. Clay is heavier -- on the pocket, as well, but it's a much more eco-friendly option," said Abhijit Karandikar, a creative director at an advertising agency.
For several years now, Karandikar has bought a 2-foot tall clay Ganesha for his home from a market in central Mumbai that sources its supplies from a family in a village nearby.
Karandikar, who has also convinced some friends and neighbors to go green, immerses his Ganesha in a tub of water at home and gives the clay to a school nearby for kids to play with. Continued...