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Eco-friendly Ganesh idols ready for sale

Express News Service

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Pune, August 17: This Ganesh Chaturthi, Puneites can revive the age-old tradition of using Ganesh idols made of shaadu (natural clay), while saving the environment at the same time. A city-based enterprise eCoexist has prepared biodegradable Ganesh idols made from shaadu. Hand-sculpted by traditional sculptors from Pen village, the idols will be painted with natural colours using turmeric, multani mitti and geroo.

In olden days, devotees used to make Ganesh idols from clay procured from their own homes, and immerse them in their own ponds or tanks, to symbolise the cycle of creation and dissolution in nature. Yet after the advent of Plaster of Paris (POP), this became a preferred choice for sculptors, since POP idols are cheaper, less fragile and easier to transport.

However, since POP is not a naturally occurring material, it leads to widespread water pollution when immersed. Apart from taking longer to dissolve in water, the POP increases the acid content of the water. Moreover, if the idols are decorated with chemical paints, the heavy metals contained in the paint seep into the water. As against this, the natural clay idols dissolve immediately with little or no pollution.

The main problem with shaadu idols has been the limited supply, wherein orders need to placed months in advance. Thus based on the success of its experimental production last year, eCoexist has prepared these idols in collaboration with the Pen sculptors. Natural colours have been used like turmeric for the ornaments and clothes, multani mitti for the skin colour and geroo for Ganesha’s seat.

The idols will be available in fifteen varieties at a cost ranging from Rs 200 to Rs. 400, and can be immersed in a bucket of water, which can later even be used for watering plants without causing any harm. Natural clay idols can be identified by their weight (heavier than PoP), originally grey in colour and sensitive to humidity.

“By demonstrating that there is a growing market for such idols, we hope to give the sculptors the confidence to make the shift back to using natural clay,” said eCoexist proprietor Manisha Gutman.

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