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Post Ganesha Chaturthi: Delving on eco-friendly alternatives

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By Ila Garg

Every year, Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated across the nation with great pomp and show. It is a 10-day festival that Hindus celebrate with great fervour during the month of Bhadra (23 August-22 September) in accordance with the Hindu calender. The preparations begin months ahead of the event as hundreds of artisans start making Ganesha idols and paint them in beautiful colors. Many tourists too love to visit India to witness the proceedings of Ganesha Chaturthi as the excitement that this festival brings with itself is unparalleled.

2015-09-21_0433Streets of Mumbai go berserk as innumerable hues and countless tunes take over to celebrate the birthday of our elephant-headed God, Ganesha.

However post festival, the water pollution caused by immersion of idols cannot be ignored. The idols, made up of toxic materials like Plaster of Paris, cement, plastic, and clay do not dissolve in water easily and later they create a layer on the water surface. This layer then cause breathing and surviving difficulty for fish and other aquatic creatures. And, that’s not all! The paints used to colour the idols contain mercury and lead. The plastic and cement used in the idols takes months to dissolve and yet the residue is left lurking near the debris. Also, the water’s acid content increases post the festival due to the immersion of idols. This polluted water not only hits the flora and fauna adversely but also causes diseases like skin irritation and others.

After the immersion, no steps are taken to clean the water so the pollution aggravates the problem. The Yamuna River in Delhi suffers to a large extent due to the immersion of idols. “Even after the immersion, no one from the (municipal) corporation comes to clean the riverbank. The locals collect the bamboo from the river bank for their own use. This practice is seen every year. The MCD comes to just put the road in order,” said Bhubaneswar, a local resident.

Rajesh, a member of a puja committee from Noida Sector 76, said, “The clay used for making Durga idols in Kolkata is always recommended because it gets absorbed in the water. Idols made of Plaster of Paris are not good because they release a lot of chemicals. The government should make alternate arrangements for immersion of Ganesha idols.”

This problem has persisted for many years now. The number of idols immersed increases every year. This year, the 10-day festival that ended on September 18 saw at least six lakh idols immersed in small lakes, rivers, and seas across Maharashtra. Many more idols were immersed nationwide. Imagine the amount of pollution that this would cause due to the toxins used in the idols!

“Every year we come here for Visarjan. There is no alternate arrangement. We don’t want to pollute the Yamuna but can’t help it. Every year the Yamuna gets dirty during Ganesha festival and Durga Puja, the government should do something about it. There is so much space near the ghat. The government should make separate arrangement for immersion. The sages and seers of our country should come forward and create awareness about it. Only then, this practice would change for the better,” said Somesh Lal, an engineer and a member of the puja committee in Delhi.

On September 16, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) came out with an order to ban the immersion of idols made of plastic and Plaster of Paris. As awareness is finally spreading, people have started working towards finding eco-friendly alternatives of celebrating Lord Ganesha’s birthday. Many organizations have addressed this issue and are actively coming up with eco-friendly Ganesha idols that are made of biodegradable materials and thus they can be safely immersed in the water. They also encouraged people to immerse the idols in tanks instead of rivers or seas to keep a check on the pollution.

In this regard, while on one hand a Mumbai-based NGO launched the #GodSaveTheOcean campaign, on the other hand, a Bengaluru-based organisation, ‘To Make a Difference’ (TMAD) manufactured 9-inch long eco-friendly Ganesha idols and home-delivered them to several houses this year.

Recently, the Human Resource Development Centre also started a Skill Development Scheme under which a small group of women made idols using bio-degradable materials. Two self-driven citizens of India– Shashi Shah who is an IT consultant and a Bengaluru-resident along with his friend Subru– started a company called Mudpiez this year. This company delivers ocean-friendly Ganesha idols and also offers to pick the idols for the immersion to ensure that the idols are immersed in an eco-friendly manner and not merely dumped in lakes, rivers, and seas. It is indeed a welcome move.

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The eco-friendly Ganesha idols have been discussed upon a lot of times in the past but this year, we saw the execution of the idea. However, what came across as the most innovative way of celebrating an eco-friendly Ganesha Chaturthi was the idol that was made up of chocolate. A Mumbai-based baker Rintu Kalyani Rathod became an inspiration when she chose to make a 38 inches tall Ganesha idol with 35 kg of chocolate. It took her 50 hours to do so. What she did next is perhaps the most-amazing part of this whole idea. She immersed the chocolate Ganesha idol in milk and then she distributed it among hundreds of underprivileged kids. This served two purposes; firstly, it didn’t cause any pollution and secondly, by spreading happiness among the poor kids, she earned a lot of love and blessings.

Next year, for Ganesha Chaturthi, let us bring eco-friendly Ganesha idols to our homes and save the environment without hampering the festivity.

(With quotes from IANS)

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Exploring the Faces of Faith and Devotion: 7 Principal Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism

Foremost among the several gods and goddesses of Hinduism are the Trimurti; Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, the holy triad that signify supreme divinity in Hinduism – the creater, sustainer and destroyer of the world

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Are you familiar with the various gods and goddesses of Hinduism? Pixabay

New Delhi, October 9, 2017 : Devout Hindus have a god for every occasion and every day – over 33 million, according to popular beliefs. While people of other religions often interpret them as fictional characters, the multiple gods and goddesses of Hinduism are held with utmost devotion and sincerity by the believers.

Ours is a polytheistic religion – in other words, a myriad of gods and goddesses of Hinduism. Foremost among the several gods and goddesses of Hinduism are the Trimurti; Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, the holy triad that signify supreme divinity in Hinduism – the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the world. These divine forces are known to appear in different avatars, embodied by different gods and goddesses.

In Hinduism, Lord Brahma is the creator of the Universe and the first member of the holy trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh). However, he is not worshiped as Vishnu or Shiva with only one temple dedicated to him, the Pushkar temple of Rajasthan.

Here are some of the many gods and goddesses of Hinduism.

1. Vishnu

Vishnu is the second member of the holy Hindu triad, who sustains the entire world – Vishnu is believed to return to the earth during distressed times to restore the balance between good and evil.

gods and goddesses of Hinduism
Lord Vishnu. Wikimedia

Believed to have incarnated nine times, Vishnu symbolizes the principles of order, righteousness, and truth. His associate is Lakshmi, the goddess of family life and prosperity.

Vishnu is always depicted with a blue-colored human body with four hands, each of which carries four different objects – a conch, chakra, lotus flower and mace. The god is shown to ride the Garuda, an eagle.

So far, Vishnu has appeared on earth in various incarnations. These include fish, turtle, boar, Narsimha (half lion, half man), Vamana (dwarf sage with the ability to grow), Parsuram, Ram, Krishna and Buddha. Devotees believe he will re-incarnate in a last avatar, popularly known as ‘Kalki’, close to the end of this world.

Hindus who worship Vishnu are primarily known as Vaishnava and regard him as the greatest god.

2. Shiva

One of the members of the holy Hindu trinity, Lord Shiva is as the god of destruction, so that the world may be recreated by Brahma. Thus, his destructive powers are perceived as regenerative: necessary to make renewal possible.

Known by different names like Mahadeva, Nataraja , Pashupati, Vishwanath and Bhole Nath, Shiva is known to have untamed enthusiasm, which drives him to extremes in conduct. It is his relationship with wife Parvati which established the balance. While other gods and goddesses are represented in glorious avatars, Shiva is dressed in plan animal skin and usually sits in a yogic aasana.

gods and goddesses of hinduism
God Shiva, Wikimedia

Shiva is often addressed as the Lord of Dance, with the rhythm of the dance believed to be symbolic of the balance in the universe, masterfully held by Shiva. His most significant dance form is the Tandav.

Hindus who worship Shiva as their primary god are known as Shaivites.


3. Lakshmi

One of the most popular goddesses of Hindu mythology, Lakshmi gets hers name from the Sanskrit word ‘lakshya’, meaning ambition or purpose. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth, prosperity and purity and is the associate of Vishnu.

Lakshmi is believed to reside in places of hard work, and sincerity, However, the goddess leaves whenever an individual is overcome with greed or malice or when these qualities are not evident anymore. Hindus believe Sita is an incarnation of Lakshmi. Hence, they worship the goddess of prosperity primarily during Diwali, which commemorated the Hindu epic Ramayana.

Gods and goddesses of hinduism
Goddess Lakshmi. Wikimedia

Lakshmi is widely represented as an enchanting woman with four arms, settled or standing on a lotus flower.

Devout Hindus worship Lakshmi at temples and inside homes alike, and believe worshipping her with utmost sincerity blesses an individual with success and fortune.


4. Ganesha

The pot bellied, elephant-headed god Ganesha, also known as Ganpati, Vinayak and Binayak, is the son of Shiva and Parvati. one of the most popular gods and goddesses of Hinduism, Ganesha is revered as the remover of all obstacles, which is why his presence is first acknowledged before beginning any new work.

The lord of success and wealth, Ganesha is also the patron of knowledge and learning; devotees believe he wrote down parts of the Hindu epic Mahabharata with his broken tusk.

gods and goddesses of hinduism
Ganesh Puja. Wikimedia

Ganesha is typically depicted as a pot-bellied, elephant-headed red colored god, with four arms and a broken tusk. This head is believed to characterize the atma or the soul and the body represents the maya or mankind’s earthly existence. The rats, which can gnaw their way through every hardship, are believed to symbolize Ganesha’s ability to destroy all obstacles.

Lord Ganesha is shown riding mouse, which can gnaw their way through every hardship, are believed to symbolize Ganesha’s ability to destroy all obstacles.


5. Krishna

Believed to be the most popular and the most powerful avatar of Vishnu, Krishna is revered as the Supreme Being or the Purana Purushottam out of a list of several hundred gods and goddesses of Hinduism, by several devout Hindus. One of the most loved and mischievous gods, Krishna means ‘black’ and can be believed to denote mysteriousness.

In Hinduism, Krishna takes several different roles- that of a hero, leader, protector, philosopher, teacher and a friend and is believed to have lived on earth between 3200 – 3100 BC. His birth is widely celebrated on the midnight of Ashtami during the month of Shravan, and is called Janmashthami.

gods and goddesses of Hinduism
Picture of idols of Lord Krishna and Radha, decorated for Janmashtami. Wikimedia

Stories of Krishna’s birth, childhood and youth and widely read and circulated, with every mother wanting to have a child like him. His raas with Radha is also remembered widely.

Krishna is held with utmost reverence for his role as the charioteer of Arjuna, as explained in the Mahabharata. It was in the middle of this war that Krishna delivered his famous advice about ‘Nishkam Karma’ which propagated action without attachment, which formed the basis of the Bhagwat Gita.

Krishna is extremely fond of white butter and there are several stories about how he stole butter from gopis throughout his childhood. He is depicted as a dark and extremely handsome, usually depicted with a flute which he used for its seductive powers.


6. Ram

Maryada Purushottam Ram is the ideal avatar of Vishnu. An epitome of chivalry, virtues and ethical demeanor, Ram is the seventh incarnation of Vishnu who is believed to have taken birth to eradicate all evils from the world.

gods and goddesses of Hinduism
Ram Darbar. Wikimedia

Unlike all other gods and goddesses of Hinduism, Ram is believed to be a historical character, instead of an imaginary figure. The Hindu epic Ramayana is a retelling and celebration of Ram’s life – a tale of his fourteen years in exile with his wife and brother.

Ram’s birthday is celebrated as Ramnavmi, wherein devotees invoke him with religious chants to attain his blessings shield. The festival of lights, Diwali, which is one of the major festivals in Hinduism, is also observed to celebrate the return of Ram, Laksham and Sita back to Ayodhya after an exile of fourteen years.

Ram bears a dark complexion to show his resemblance to Vishnu and his other avatar Krishna, and is almost always depicted with a bow and arrow in his hands and a quiver on his back. Ram also wears a tilak on his forehead. Accompanying the statues of Ram are idols of his wife Sita, brother Lakshman and the celebrated monkey-god Hanuman, who together combine the Ram Darbar.

7. Saraswati

Daughter of Shiva and Durga, and the consort of Brahma, Saraswati is revered as the goddess of wisdom, learning, speech and music. She is the goddess of knowledge and arts. Devotees often worship the deity before commencing any educational work- books and stationary items are often revered as Saraswati is believed to reside in them.

Saraswati Vandana, religious chants dedicated to the goddess of music often begin and end all Vedic lessons. The goddess also plays songs of wisdom, affection and life on the veena, a string instrument.

gods and goddesses of hinduism
Sarswati, Wikimedia Commons

Saraswati is visually represented in pure white attire and rides a peacock, with a lotus in one hand and sacred scriptures in the other. She also has four hands that signify the four aspects of learning- mind, intellect, alertness, and ego.

Out of all the 33 million gods and goddesses of Hinduism, devout Hindus believe only Saraswati can grant them moksha- the ultimate emancipation of the soul.