Festivals in India bring joy, harmony, peace, togetherness, and pollution. Yes, that's true! Worshipping huge idols of gods is a tradition, but immersing the idols in the water bodies due to old beliefs is not something appreciated from the environmental point of view.
Though we can't halt those beliefs in a day, we can adopt eco-friendly ways to keep the pollution under control without hampering our culture and tradition.
To have a better understanding of eco-friendly products this Ganesh Chaturthi, Boldsky got in touch with Ritu Jadham who is the founder of a Bengaluru-based startup, Mud Effects Pottery Studio. This 35-year-old potter has come up with an amazing way to reduce the pollution of the city during this Ganesha festival by making eco-friendly 'Mud Ganesha'. Interesting right!
Mud Ganesha is a handmade and biodegradable idol of Lord Ganesha made by filtered mud. When it is immersed in the water bodies, it melts without polluting the water.
Ritu Jadham says, "I am a potter and have a studio in which I work with clay. I make so many things out of the clay and love it. It really feels good when you work with it as it's relaxing and moreover when you make Ganesha with your hand, you feel connected to nature and the deity".
On asking what prompted her to make an eco-friendly mud Ganesha, she said, "When people make Ganesha with their hand, their feelings come out for the deity. It is fun to make the mud idol of Ganesha with natural clay. Nowadays, idols made of plaster of Paris are available outside which look very nice but after immersing them, they pollute the lake or the water bodies. But mud Ganesha can be used later for potting".
She added, "These mud Ganesha idols are made by a lakeside clay or river bed clay. We purify it and make it very smooth by taking out all the dirt particles so that people can make idols easily with their hands. Also, around 50-60 mud Ganesha idols have already been delivered and we expect to make around 150 more".How Mud Ganesha Helps Counter Pollution
Mud Ganesha helps a lot in countering pollution. Nowadays, idols are made of plaster of Paris, small iron rods, clothes, bamboo and decorated with harmful paints. When those painted idols are immersed in water, they not only pollute the water but make it poisonous for aquatic animals.
A study conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) reveals that around 16.8 tonnes of garjan oil and varnish along with 32 tonnes of colours were found in the water after the idol immersion. The colours found contained harmful metals like lead, manganese, chromium, and mercury.
Ritu adds, "Lakes are polluted with chemicals and immersing idols in the water add up to it. So, using mud idols is the best way to reduce water pollution as they are made with natural clay and thus, absorb all the harmful chemicals and toxins from the water bodies".Challenges Faced
According to Ritu, the making of Ganesha's mud idol doesn't come with a lot of challenges as it requires only filtered mud and interest to try this relaxing art form. The only thing that sometimes becomes a constraint is the weather. When the weather is bad, the clay melts down.
However, such challenges can be easily addressed by collecting the clay when the weather suits, wrapping it properly and storing it so that later it can be brought back to its original form by adding water.
"It is a very less expensive thing. We can get clays normally from the riverside and we can reuse it", said Ritu.Cost And Other Products
Mud Ganesha idols by 'Mud Effect' will cost around Rs. 650 for one idol. The idol will be 8-9 inches tall (up to 1 feet) and it can be customised according to the requirement. For example, if a customer wants big ears for Ganesha or a turban-wearing Ganesha, the idol can be customised accordingly.
Apart from these products, the company also makes eco-friendly and decorative planters, bottles, cups, mug, and kullars of different shapes and sizes.
"I love playing with clay. I have people in my pottery classes who happily come and help me in work. Some students are working with me for the past 3 years. Apart from making mud Ganesha, I take classes for people who are interested in clay art, sculptures, murals, ceramics and the basic wheel pottery."Clay Art As A Therapy
A study conducted by the two Hong Kong researchers Nan and Ho in the year 2017 says that 'clay art therapy' is more effective than the 'visual art' as it lowers the depression and improves the mental health and overall well-being of a person.
"People find the place more relaxing and it's a stress buster for them. Nowadays people work for long hours. They just want to come over here on weekends and relieve stress. This is therapeutic", said Ritu.
Talking about how she is trying to take this initiative forward, the 9-year experienced potter said, "I usually post in many groups I have in WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram. I just post the messages so that people can read and reach out to my studio for some relaxing artwork."
Mentioning about her future projects, Ritu said that currently, she is focusing on this mud Ganesha project but for the Diwali festival, she is planning to make eco-friendly mud lanterns and decorative mud diyas.