THE CROAK is a weekly environmental newsletter put out by the eCoexist team. It is the voice of the environment on its last legs, the final croak that can either be a plea for attention or a call of triumph as the frogs jump out of the well of ignorance and denial.
Our ground water aquifers are depleting and this year India is facing a severe water crisis. Nearly 250 districts in India are declared to be under drought. The monsoon finally arrived in Maharashtra weeks after it was scheduled to come. But will it replenish our water supplies enough to last the year?

How will we use the precious water that we do manage to save through intense water conservation efforts? 

As we gear up for the upcoming Ganesh festival, eCoexist is bringing attention to all the environmental issues that can be addressed by a conscious and aware celebration. In small ways, by making adjustments to our ritual practices we can modify the festival to ensure that it becomes a vehicle for Nature conservation. In this issue, lets look at Water. 
Why do we immerse the Ganesh idols in water?
The date of Ganesh Chaturthi falls on the fourth day of the waxing moon period (Shukla Chaturthi) in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada. In olden times, agricultural communities would bring home a handful of soil from the river bank to worship it. This soil, that was deposited the river banks during the months of monsoon was highly fertile.

After offering prayers to the soil , it would be returned to the rivers , in the belief that it carried the sankalpa - the intention of the worship and blessings to communities that lived downstream.

It was also believed that by returning what was brought from the earth, back to the earth , we were closing the cycle of life and letting go of our attachments. 

This was the origin of the ritual of immersion. 
Materials and water
With time, the soil took the form of various idols - as a snake during the festival of Nagpanchami, as a bull for the festival of Bail Pola and in the form of Ganesha for Ganesh Chaturthi. In those early days, the idols were moulded out of the sediment from the same river that they were returned too. There was no paint used and the idols would be hand sculpted. Hence these materials had little impact on the water.

As a small scale industry developed around these festivals, the idols began to be sculpted out of chemical materials such as Plaster of Paris and chemical paints. 

The immersion of these materials into water bodies has a negative impact on water quality as well as the marine life that lives in them. 
Alternatives to Visarjan
So how can we continue to maintain this religious tradition yet conserve our dwindling water resources? A few different ideas have emerged over the last decade as alternatives to a full scale immersion in a natural water body...

1. Immerse the idol at home in a bucket of water and pour the water into your gardens. This is another way of ensuring that the energy of your devotion and worship returns to the earth.

2. Along with a larger permanent idol , place a miniature clay idol during the worship. For the immersion simply immerse the smaller idol so that the amount of water required for visarjan is also minimised.

3. Alternatively, you can also place a betel nut leaf and a supari, during the worship and immerse these .

4. Switch to the use of a permanent idol and after the worship is over, sprinkle some water over the idol to symbolise the immersion.

All of these possibilities, have the approval of religious heads and can be adopted to ensure that water is conserved during the festival.
Miniature clay and cow dung idols
 Hand sculpted and Sun-dried clay idols    Left : Shishu 2.5 inches  Right: Vaman 2.5 inches 
Lahaan Gomaya 2.5 inches Cowdung 
eCoexist has developed adorable miniature idols in clay and cowdung to facilitate a shift in the visarjan practise and to save water. These do not have any chemical paints on them and dissolve easily in water. The clay idols are hand sculpted by a sculptor in Karnataka and the cow dung idols have been made by a farmers group in Kolhapur. We can also supply these in bulk , as they make beautiful gifts. 
Book your idols here
The Eco Ganesh campaign has been adopted by a network of stores in Pune Mumbai Bangalore and Mysore. To find a store near you click here ...
The Croak is a weekly environmental newsletter put out by the eCoexist team. It is the voice of the environment on its last legs, the final croak that can either be a plea for attention or a call of triumph as the frogs jump out of the well of ignorance and denial. Satirical, urgent and wise the newsletter brings to your attention, topics of global environmental relevance as well as emerging encouraging alternatives. Put together by a team of passionate Nature lovers, The Croak hopes to look at the environmental crisis in its face. It is a tool to reconnect readers to Nature, through questioning and self reflection. To understand the outer environment as a reflection of our own inner state, individually and as a species. And to take responsibility for enabling change.
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