In a small room at Home Science College near Reserve Bank of India, Sowmya, a final-year student, takes up a spray gun, presses a button and starts spraying a two-foot tall idol of Lord Ganesha. The off-white colour of the idol changes into something more attractive. The folds of the dhoti of Lord Ganesha begin to look like creases.
A few metres away inside the Lumbini Park, Jagadish Prasad sits under a tree with dozens of clay Ganesha idols kept under a tent. A young boy takes a small plastic bottle, mixes watercolours and uses mild brushstrokes to transform the brownish Ganesha idol into something more colourful.
Elsewhere, inside a multiplex, visitors stop by to have a peek at one-foot tall Ganesha idols created by students of Zilla Parishad High School of Malkajgiri. About 3,000 idols made by the students of four ZPHSs from the surrounding areas of the city would be distributed free of cost this year before Vinayaka Chaviti that begins in a few days from now. The activities in these centres are the only sprigs of hope in the otherwise gloomy world of environmental havoc caused due to the installation of thousands of Ganesha idols made of gypsum and painted with toxic synthetic colours.
Officials of the Home Science Department have created natural colours by boiling and blending sap, flowers, shoots, seeds and roots. “Earlier, there was a complaint that natural colours don’t shine or look good. Now, our scientists have created colours and resins that can match the synthetic colours,” explains Soujanya, who says that the sap of thumma jiguru (gum extract of Prosopis juliflora) gives the shine. Other colours are made from boiling marigold flowers, flame of forest (palash) and even the rind of pomegranate with fillers like lime powder adding sparkle.
The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) is doing its bit to raise awareness about the eco-friendly celebration of the festival. “Last year, we sold one lakh idols. This year, the number has been doubled to two lakh. For making smaller idols with a smooth finish, we get clay from Howrah and that’s why the idols are expensive. For the other idols, we take clay from the lake bed near Chilkur Balaji temple,” says Prasad, whose family has been making the idols for generations.
One of the steps taken by the GHMC to limit the damage to water bodies has been to create small immersion tanks. This year, there are 23 functional immersion ponds.