Round One of This Festive Season Ends on a Good Note for the Environment

The first half of this festive season got over yesterday with Dussehra, Navratri and Durga Puja celebrated with much eco-spirituality and zeal. The religious celebrations saw many firsts, including no idol being immersed in the river Yamuna passing through Delhi.

Round one of this year’s festive season got over in India yesterday with people celebrating the festivals of Navratri, Durga Puja and Dussehra with much gusto and this year, with a clean conscience.

With increased awareness about tackling multi-pronged pollution, strict enforcement and an appeal by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to go green by shunning the use of single-use plastic, the gods were celebrated and worshipped in many eco-spiritual ways.

Like using clay to make the idols and not plaster of Paris, shunning the use of thermocol and lead-based paints for decoration and instead, using traditional everyday use household items made from natural materials or even recycled objects to adopting ‘pattal’ or paper plates for distributing food.

Strict guidelines and stiff penalties did play their part in ensuring a much clean festivities this year with Durga Puja pandals adopting back-to-basics methods of idol making, decorating the pandals or ensuring plastic-free puja functions. Bhandara organisers, who distribute free food during the nine days of Navratri, too joined in for the cause by not using plastic or styrofoam cutlery.

Some puja organisers were so die-hard in their approach that one pandal in Bengal was made of small trees, vegetable plants and seasonal flowering plants. Such was the zeal that the planning for the making began 6 months in advance, according to a post on the Facebook page of the organisers.

Pandals in Bengal are known for their craftsmanship but this pandal in Egra in the state’s East Midnapore district certainly won our heart. The effort and the enthusiasm for such an innovative idea in spreading the message of sustainability is indeed heartwarming.

Many other puja pandals enforced a strict ‘No Plastic’ rule inside their premises and even ensured recycling of the flowers used for the rituals. This surely encouraged many to follow but the sight of styrofoam plates, plastic spoons and single-use plastic wrappers of ice creams and chocolates could still be seen littered outside the pandals.

The spirit of safeguarding and doing good for the environment was also on display during the 9-day auspicious Navratri period. Many organisations and organisers of Garba and Dandiya went the extra mile in encouraging and adopting eco-friendly ways of celebrating Navratri this year.

Garbas and Dandiya sticks were made of paper and other environment-friendly material, encouraging the participants to carry home the message of doing good while having fun.

And the spirit of enterprise fused with the spirit of sustainability with staff in many offices celebrating Navratri the eco-friendly way. Workers typically wear traditional wear to the office during festival days but this year, many went the extra mile by doing things the eco-friendly way too.

And then there was the strict dictum this year for immersion of idols in makeshift ponds and water bodies and not in rivers. The National Mission for Clean Ganga too had issued a directive imposing a fine of Rs 50,000 for idol immersion in river Ganga, its tributaries and on their banks.

In a first for Delhi, no idol was immersed in the river Yamuna this year as Delhi government had issued strict guidelines and created temporary water bodies for immersion, moving organisers away from immersing idols in the river.

Many puja pandals in Delhi made arrangements for immersion within their premises and this surely left a much cleaner Yamuna passing through Delhi. But then, attempts were made to break the rules and even dump puja material into the river from Delhi’s many bridges over the Yamuna.

Overall, it was encouraging to see the enthusiasm for celebrating India’s rich, plural culture the environment-friendly, sustainable and traditional way. The young were the hawks helping in enforcing, the old were the enablers and the devotees were happy to have celebrated round one of this festival season the eco-spiritual way, the clean way, the right way.

Now we wait for round two: a.k.a Diwali, the festival of lights. With Delhi’s air quality becoming poor by late evening yesterday after the burning of effigies of Ravana and his brothers on Dussehra day, the signs are not encouraging of a clean Diwali twenty days after Dussehra.

India’s top court has made strict guidelines for Diwali, cracking down on the duration of bursting firecrackers, type and the sound level of the crackers that will be made available for sale but in a vast country like India, the demand is much much more than the supply of the so-called ‘green crackers’.

And going by the celebrations seen so far this festival season, this Diwali will be a hell of a challenge for federal, state and law enforcement authorities to ensure even some semblance of an environment-friendly and sustainable Diwali.

We hope that some enthusiasm from round one moves forward to round two in celebrating a festival the sustainable way with much bonhomie, gusto and spiritual fervour.

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Anirban Roy

Anirban Roy

Anirban has been a journalist all his working life having worked with leading global media brands for most of this time. He has a strong interest in sustainability too and is an occasional writer for IamRenew.

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