A Greener Ganesh

Supari Ganesh

Photo credit: Fredo Alvarez

An age-old tradition of molding Ganesh idols out of clay is being revived just in time for Ganesh Chaturthi, or the Ganesh Festival, which takes place on Sept. 15 this year.

A company known as eCoexist, based in the western Indian city of Pune, has crafted biodegradable Ganesh idols made from shaadu, or natural clay. Hand-sculpted by traditional artisans from Pen village, the idols are painted with natural dyes such as turmeric, multani mitti, and geroo.In the past, devotees made Ganesh idols from clay procured from their own homes, and then immersed the statues in their own ponds or tanks to symbolize the cycle of creation and dissolution in nature.

Clay was soon outflanked by the emerging Plaster of Paris, which made idols cheaper, less fragile, and easier to transport. Because Plaster of Paris isn't a naturally occurring material, however, it resulted in rampant water pollution when immersed, increasing the acid content of the water and leaching heavy metals from chemical paints used on the idols.

"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. ::Yahoo India

See also: ::Religion and the Environment, ::Global Warming to Dry Up Ganges River, and ::Uncovering an Ancient City Felled by Urban Sprawl

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