Welcoming change with Lord Ganesha..

Eleven years after eCoexist began its campaign to make the Ganesh Chaturthi festival more eco friendly by designing and supplying eco products we are now witnessing the changes in the festival with a grateful heart!

More and more societies are opting to have a collective Ganesh celebration using eco friendly idols. Trainings on how to make your own Ganesha are seeing more participants. Several slum communities have asked for support to switch to eco friendly options .

The debate around Plaster of Paris continues to remain confusing however everyone is in agreement that the river is not a place to immerse unnatural products.
Introducing Cow dung Ganesha idols: ideal for the earth!
eCoexist located a group of farmers near Kolhapur that have started making idols in cow dung. Cow dung is a completely biodegradable material that also acts as a fertilizer when mixed with the soil. It dissolves in water when immersed and can be easily put into gardens with out causing any pollution. This initiative has been supported by members of the Art of Living community in Kolhapur.

These idols were included in our range of designs and we were happy to note that the public responded very positively. The idols were left unpainted and came in two sizes.
Shola pith: A natural substitute to thermocol
Shola pith is a materail well known to Bengalis - Bengal has a tradition of craft using Shola and all Bengali weddings use jewellery made of shola. This material is very similar to thermocol in its texture and consistency - it grows abundantly in marshy areas in the state of West Bengal. For several years eCoexist has been introducing this material to our audiences as a sustainable alternative to thermocol decorations. This year as the ban on disposable plastics also covered thermocol decorations, we invited artisans from Bengal to come and demonstrate their skill in making these decorations. These sessions were held in collaboration with Heart for Art, Pune.
Residential societies convert to Eco Ganeshas
This year we have supplied eco Ganesha idols to the following societies. The marked increase in the demand for eco Ganesh idols is evidence of the change coming about in the choices of urban residents.

Amanora Park Town, Hadapsar, Pune
Lunkad Greenland, Viman nagar, Pune
Rohan Mithila Phase 3, Viman nagar, Pune
Rohan Mithila Phase 4, Viman nagar, Pune
Downtown Langston, Ashoka nagar, Pune
Gera Harmony, Kalyani nagar, Pune
Marigold, Kalyani nagar, Pune
Disha Horizon, Viman nagar, Pune
Chrrysalis Coop Hsg Socy, Wagholi, Pune
Talera Park, Kalyani Nagar, Pune
Metro House Coop Hsg Society, Pune
Brahma Sun City, Wadgaon Sheri, Pune
Anand Society, Andheri, Mumbai
Suncity Gloria, Carmelaram, Bangalore

The Rotary Club of Kalyaninagar held a competition for the greenest Ganesha and three out of the four finalists were societies that had used an eCoexist Ganesh idol! In this way, our work has affected our neighbourhood and continues to do so in an expansive and inclusive way.
Awareness sessions about the need for an eco friendly festival
The Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh is one of the largest collectives of people from the Hindu faith. Since many people in this group do continue the tradition of celebrating the Ganesh festival we proposed to conduct environment awareness sessions for their members. A young RSS volunteer, Mankit Arya, who is also a Law student at Symbiosis Law College, conducted these sessions after getting trained by the eCoexist team.
The emphasis of the sessions was about taking responsibility about our ecological impact by ensuring that we only use natural biodegradable materials, by reducing the size of our idols and doing an immersion at home rather than in rivers and lakes.
Sessions were held at the following venues:
Session Date: 8th July , Sunday
Venue: RSS Viman Nagar Shakha, Biodiversity Park
Session Date: 17th July, Tuesday
Venue: Symbiosis Law School, Viman Nagar
Session Date: 29th July Sunday
Venue: Poona Women’s Council School, Camp
Session Date: 28th July, Saturday
Venue: Viman Nagar Student’s Shakha, Symbiosis College Ground.
Workshops on the art of making a Ganesha idol
eCoexist in collaboration with Heart for Art, Pune conducted several workshops to teach adults and children how to make their own Ganeshas. Led by artisans from Pen, these sessions taught the participants about the need to switch to natural and biodegradable materials as well as showed them what goes into making a natural clay idol. The intention of the workshops was to increase peoples appreciation for this fine art of sculpture with clay that is fast disappearing.
Idols donated to underprivileged groups
Several of our Ganesh idols were donated to underprivileged communities around Pune. This activity was done along with Maher Ashram and Surajya Sarvangin Vikas Prakalp (SSVP). The founder of Maher ashram Sr Lucy, a Christian nun, is  known for her inter faith inclusive homes for the homeless. Ganesh celebrations at these shelters are attended by all residents irrespective of the faith they may have been born in. Ten idols were installed at the different centers this year.
SSVP is an NGO working in the field of education for slum children and has also done awareness sessions for these kids around the issue of eco Ganesha festivals in the past. Idols given to them went out to communities in Sanjay Park, Jay Prakash nagar, Barma Sel, Ekta nagar, Bhim nagar, Rajiv Gandhi nagar, and Ambedkar nagar.
Immersion and the debate around Plaster of Paris
eCoexist encourages all our audiences to only do an immersion of the idols at home in a bucket of clean water and to then pour this water into gardens or potted plants. This is because we promote the use of completely biodegradable materials that do not use chemicals neither in the making of the idols nor in the paints or pigments used to decorate it.
While the scientific community continues to debate the impacts of Plaster of Paris on water, we still believe that it is unsustainable to immerse any kind of man made objects into natural water bodies like lakes, rivers and the sea.
To enable the conservation of water, the most ideal process would be to keep a permanent idol and only do a symbolic immersion with either a betelnut or a very small clay idol. For this we have developed miniature idols that we encourage people to keep alongside their main idols of worship. This manner of immersion ensures that minimal water is used and that when idols are immersed they are not put into natural water bodies.
The materials we promote include natural clay, paper and cowdung. The pigments we use are turmeric, multani mitti and geroo (both forms of soil) . We are happy to report that we can observe a willingness among individuals and communities to make this change towards ecological sustainability.

A long way to go...
Heart wrenching footage of lakes and the beaches right after the immersion rituals in Mumbai show the extent of devastation that is still being caused by the way this festival is celebrated and most importantly, by the materials people are using for their idols. Even though the levels of awareness have risen considerably in the eleven years we have been working on the issue, there is still a long journey ahead to make it completely safe for marine life and acquatic species.

What will it take to make this happen?
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