India is a multi-cultural country of myriad festivals. We participate in the celebrations of various deities round the year and it seems quite impossible to remain aloof from the accompanied pomp and show while paying homage to the gods.
Some of these festivals involve ‘idol immersion’ in water as the celebrations finale. Beautifully carved and decorated idols are drowned into water bodies like rivers, ponds and lakes with prayers for success, happiness and peace.
Two major festivals in India that involve idol immersion are - ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’, dedicated to Lord Ganesha and ‘Durga Puja’, dedicated to Goddess Durga.
However, amidst the celebrations, people tend to forget the ill-effects of the practice. The most serious impact of idol immersion is on the environment. It disturbs the ecological balance by polluting water and adversely affecting the flora and fauna.
The idols of deities are made of non-biodegradable materials such as plastic, cement and plaster of paris and are painted with toxic dyes that contain harmful and toxic chemicals.
When they come in contact with water, it becomes poison. This results in contamination and death of marine life.
The reason behind this is those materials that do not dissolve easily in water, thereby reducing the oxygen level and increasing the level of acidity in water.
If consumed, it can even cost us our precious lives, as even a gulp of the chemicals can prove to be fatal.
The poor condition of river ‘Yamuna’ is a visible example of water pollution.
Measures to prevent Water Pollution
Thankfully there are ways through which we can carry out the ‘idol immersion’ practice without harming the environment. Some unique and creative methods can be adopted to make ‘eco-friendly idols’. We should follow the ancient tradition of constructing the statues from natural clay and paint it with flowers based dyes.
Also, the government should take stringent measures during the procedure of immersing idols. Authorities should make sure that devotees remove all clothes and heavy-metal ornaments from idols before bidding farewell to the deities. There should be some strict guidelines and norms which must be followed prior to idol immersion across the country.
Surveys should be conducted at various immersion-sites to check pre-immersion, during-immersion and post-immersion water purity results.
There should be a ban on the immersion of plastic-made icons into lakes, rivers and the sea. Recycling of eco-friendly statues and creative, judicious and wise use of natural products in creating statues can be of great help in maintaining the ecological balance.
We as devotees should understand that if we do not respect nature then we can never respect God.