KANCHI KOHLI

From Dussehra to Christmas is one long celebration. But the festive season has also proved to be a critical source of pollution.

The season has begun. For the next few months the country will celebrate several festivals of various religions. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and some other states resounded with the finale of the Ganesha as idols were immersed in water bodies: sea, river, tanks.

Following which we also celebrated Dussehra. Then there was Durga Puja and Deepavali (or Diwali). The month long fasting came to an end with Eid and eventually at the end of the year there will be Christmas.

Showing off?

In varied cultures, festivals have traditionally played very purposeful roles. Apart from religion, they bring with them threads of the feeling of community, collective camaraderie. Whether it is the lighting of lamps at Diwali or the Iftar eating of Eid, they allow us to move away from our daily routines to enjoy the spirit of togetherness.

Each festival has is also deeply entrenched with its own logic, often linked with natural elements. How many of us know of the significance of Shami (Prosopis spicigera) and Apta (Bauhinia racemosa) trees during Dussehra? Interestingly, both these trees have medicinal properties and have a deep significance of exchange and use. Apta leaves are exchanged as a symbol of gold and Shami are used soaked in water and the water is used to bathe in, on the morning of the festival.

Unfortunately, in today’s context most people don’t understand the philosophy behind the festivals, all of which are impossible to narrate here. Sadly, festivals today have become a critical source of pollution.

Crackers are almost a necessity, showing opulence and extravagance, resulting in noise and air pollution. Durga or Ganesh idols are no longer made with natural material and lie for years in water bodies without dissolving, clogging and causing soil and water degradation. Commercialisation of every festival has taken the attention away from children and adults trying to understand what festivals were actually meant to achieve, the special foods and cultures associated with it.

A few have started realising this, and are working towards presenting options to understand the true meaning of festivals and also put forth eco-friendly ways of going about the celebrations.

For instance, there ia a Pune based group, eCoexist which has a range of options for Ganesh idols that useful natural elements and don’t degrade the quality of water when immersed.

For festivals like Holi there are plenty of organic colours available to do away with the chemical and toxic ones.

While it is a question of options at one level, it is also a question of choices at another. It implies that as citizens we take on some responsibilities.

Take for instance, the choice of brightening up our houses with electric bulbs or with energy guzzling ones at Christmas time. It’s time we all began exploring these and many more.

Bonding time

All our families, as we grew up, bonded with the process of lighting earthen lamps or spent hours decorating homes during festivals. A task which is today limited to a click of a button, taking the pleasure away and also adding pressure on our natural resources for the generation of electricity. We have an option not to let this happen.