Tomorrow we bid adieu to our favourite deity, the elephant headed Lord Ganesha – our very dear Ganpati Bappa. Ganeshotsav was started by freedom fighter Lokmanya Balgangadhar TIlak with the hope of bringing people together. He did succeed in his endeavour, as we can see around us today. People of different faiths come together to celebrate this festival with much fervour. It is indeed heartening to take in such sights like the Muslims getting together with their HIndu friends to decorate the pandal, conduct the aarti and partake of the prasad.
But, regretfully, there are also sights and sounds that make us wish for a utopian society rather than the one we populate! When the Ganpati in our neighbourhood set off for immersion after one and a half days, we heaved a sigh of relief. Ironic, isn’t it, considering we all await eagerly for Him to arrive in our midst every year? So, let me share with you something that will warm your hearts; something that I fervently hope becomes the norm in the utopian society we all fantasise about.
Last week, I visited my Uncle’s home for Ganesh darshan. They have been celebrating the festival since many years. But, what sets it apart, is they have been using a metal idol for the celebrations. No clay idol for them. Uncle bought a small metal idol 21 years ago, and it is this idol that they worship during the festival. And, on the day of the visarjan, the tiny Bappa goes for a dip in a bucket of water. After the dip, my Aunt towel dries the idol and places it back in the little temple in their home.
I am aware that many people follow this unique and very environment-friendly way of celebrating the festival. But, I wish all of us would do it. We complain about the noise pollution, and the water pollution which is at its peak during these days. But, how many of us are ready to take the first significant step towards the change we so wish to see? Last week, I was forwarded a video on Whatsapp of mud idols of the Lord available in the market. After the festival, all we need to do, is place the idol in a flowerpot and pour water over it.
The idol melts like a candle would and all that you are left with is mud, perfect to plant your favourite plant. You then sow a seed of your choice and in a matter of days, you have a sapling emerging out of the soil that was, once, the Lord Himself! The innovative idea is, I am sure, a few years old. Many among us bring home this idol and help the environment in their own small way. Sadly, when you emerge from the world of social media and look outside at the real world, you see more pandals sprouting on every street, every corner, with idols big and small, made of god-knows-what material, with artificial decorations that follow the idols into the sea/ponds on the day of the immersion, when the city bids farewell to Bappa.
And, the following day, all that you see are parts of Bappa and the decoration and whatnot floating in the water, garbage lining the shores and a mess all around. it’s easier forwarding the videos than practicing what we preach, isn’t it?
Do we really need all of this mess that we create in the name of festivals? The main aim of Lokmanya Tilak was to bring people together. Won’t the goal be achieved by placing one eco-friendly idol instead of ten on the very same street? Won’t the Lord be appeased by simplicity instead of all the hullabaloo we create to celebrate Him? In the wildest of my dreams, I see Bappa plugging His ears to save Himself from an unbearable headache caused due to the loudspeakers, and then bowing down before people to bring all the madness to a stop and change their ways.
That dream will never come true because Life is not a fantasy. What I do hope comes true, is the wish to see the change we all crave for. Lesser idols in smaller sizes made with environment-friendly material (and not plaster of Paris), eco-friendly decorations, an absence of loud speakers that play at a high volume all day long with blithe disregard for the laws of the land. And, most of all, unity in following new rules for the betterment of our society, for the peace and tranquility we all need and in caring for the environment that is a gift to us. A gift that is fast nearing its doom.
We regard Ganpati Bappa to be the Lord of knowledge. The way we celebrate His festival, He will wonder what we do with all the knowledge He bestows on us!
GANPATI BAPPA MORYA!