Religion meets environment: Delhi immerses ‘green’ Durga idols

September 28th, 2009 - 7:45 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 28 (IANS) As hundreds of idols of Goddess Durga hit the Yamuna river Monday as part of immersion rituals, green activists had reason to breathe easy. Unlike earlier years, many of the idols were made of natural colours and environment friendly clay!
Several organisers of Durga Puja celebrations across Delhi and the national capital region (NCR) ensured that the idols were made of clay that dissolved immediately in water and vegetable dyes to keep the Yamuna free of pollution.

Environmentalists have been campaigning to save the river, which is clogged with filth on the stretch along the industrial area around Noida and Okhla Barrage in the NCR where most of the idols are immersed on the final day of the five-day Durga Puja.

“I crafted at least 16 idols from river clay ferried all the way from Punjab and West Bengal and used natural dyes free of chemicals. Both are washed away by water,” artisan Manik Pal, who crafted most of the idols in south Delhi and in the high-end residential complexes of NCR, told IANS.

“I also used hardened pastes of flour, wheat, semolina (suji), cereals and vegetable extracts to make the ornaments and accessories of the goddess so that they dissolve and do not accumulate on the banks.”

The heavy textiles used for decorating the idols of Goddess Durga and her four children were also removed prior to immersion so that they could be “recycled” in the coming season, an assistant of Pal’s said.

“Every year, I am horrified to see the plight of the river. So, this year, I ensured that all the idols I crafted were eco-friendly,” Pal said.

“The work is harder. It would be easy if I had used thermocol, but it does not dissolve easily in water. Ninety percent of the idols in the capital this year were eco-friendly,” he claimed.

Many of the revellers who accompanied the idols in trucks for immersion at the river this time carried minimum ritual items. “In fact, we did not immerse the plantain leaves and shoots that were used for the Bijoya Dashami puja Monday morning,” a Bengali priest from Greater Noida said.

The 100-year-old Durga Puja at Kashmere Gate also made a green statement.

“Our primary focus was environment. We used chalk clay (khori mati) to craft the idol and vegetable colours. Both are natural ingredients, which dissolve easily in water,” Dipayan Mazumdar, vice-president of the Kashmere Gate Puja Samiti, said.

Flowers accumulated over the last five days were donated to an NGO for making perfume, Mazumdar said.

The mission to protect Yamuna from clogging found many takers over the last three years.

One such non-profit group was the Society for Child Development, a Delhi-based NGO engaging retarded children, which collects flowers from at least 15 temples along the Yamuna to make natural colours and perfumes as part of their Temple Flower project.

“We reaped a rich harvest during this Durga Puja with our daily collections,” Madhumita Puri of the Society for Child Development said.

Several independent campaigners also ensured that the banks of the polluted river remained clean during Durga Puja festivities.

In August 2009, the Delhi Jal Board had initiated a plan to resuscitate Yamuna’s 22-km stretch in Delhi by constructing interceptor sewers at a cost of nearly Rs.1,800 crore.

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