Durga puja is an emotion. Though it has its nucleus in the eastern parts of the country, especially in West Bengal, the festivities have flourished in almost all states. The ever-growing Bengali community all over the country has witnessed the spread of celebrations on grand scales.
Festivities might last for five days, preparations for the same start months prior to it. Over the years, people have become creative and have introduced "themes." These themes contort to a particular idea or trend that captivates the excitement and imagination of pandal hoppers.
Over the years, many puja committees took the brave decision to shift to a more eco-friendly theme. Making pandals of plastic bottles or even using eco-friendly dyes for the Goddess, a lot of initiative has been directed towards raising awareness.
However, the real question here is- how successful were these initiatives?
What are the idols typically made of?
According to the traditional method, a Durga idol is made of clay and mud, while the basic structure is made of bamboo, hay, and jute. The clay is usually collected from the banks of River Ganga. Up until now, artisans would use paints to finish the idols, but the environmental impact from the same was grave.
As the idols got immersed in water, harmful chemicals from the paint dissolved with the water, polluting the sources. Color from hundreds of figurines only adds to the plight.
Realization about the same led to a change in the kind of paints that were being used. Most artisans are shifting to more eco-friendly paints. Committees arranging Durga Puja all across the country are opting for more eco-friendly options.
While many may see this as a massive step towards becoming sustainable, artisans are still struggling with the idea of making eco-friendly choices.
"We are trying to opt for eco-friendly options. But it is expensive. At least, until now, it is. This increases cost. We get bulk orders, and it becomes difficult to manage," said Shankhu Mondal, a third-generation artisan.
"The structure is made with eco-friendly things. In a few years, we want to make the idols completely safe for the environment," he further added.
The budget becomes the most significant constraint for such artisans. There are a few, however, who are making a conscious effort to opt for sustainable materials.
Bombay Durga Bari, this year, has gone entirely eco-friendly. From the pandal to the idol, everything is constructed using eco-friendly materials.
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Puja pandals in Dibrugarh are making an effort to go sustainable as well.
Eco-friendly Durga Puja is yet to become a reality. Nevertheless, it is not a myth either. Efforts are being directed towards the same and it will take a few years to feel the change of the same.
What can you do about it?
Durga puja marks the triumph of good over evil. To rid our society of environmental evils, we need to make a fresh departure. We, as a society, need to take a stand.
Let us become more conscious about the impacts of such festivals on the environment and take a stand to rectify our mistakes.
This Durga Puja, let us become more sustainable. Let us pledge to become more mindful of the choices we make.
If Goddess Durga can go organic, why not you?