By M.T. Yogesh Kumar
Mysore/Mysuru: The joy and excitement of Ganesha Chaturthi have swept across the region, with the cultural city of Mysuru setting up elaborate places to house the idols of the beloved Ganesha. However, in defiance of restrictions, several manufacturing facilities have sprung up in Mysuru, inundating the city with Ganesha idols made from Plaster of Paris (PoP). Many merchants have even brought hundreds of PoP idols from other places to be sold in Mysuru.
To circumvent the ban and conduct business, several PoP idol makers have started renting out these idols. They argue that PoP idols will be returned post-festival and only the small clay idols will be immersed in water.
Concerns about the environmental impact of PoP idols have prompted artisans to switch to clay alternatives. However, there appears to be little public interest in purchasing clay idols.
This lack of interest is exacerbated by the abundance of colourful PoP idols, affecting artisans, especially traditional potters who depend on clay idols for their livelihood.
Ganesha Chaturthi, a two-day festival, has long been a major cultural event in Mysuru, drawing devotees and art enthusiasts alike. In recent years, there has been a significant shift from PoP idols to those made from locally sourced clay. This transition reflects a growing environmental awareness and a desire for sustainable celebrations.
Despite the ban on PoP idols due to their harmful impact on environment and water pollution, some traders continue to provide incorrect information to buyers. Idols made in other States have found their way into the market, creating stiff competition for local artisans who rely on clay-based craftsmanship, particularly potters who are struggling to sell their clay idols.
The sale of PoP Ganesha idols is still flourishing in various places, including Vontikoppal, Vijayanagar, Teresian College Road and Hebbal. These PoP Ganesha idols, available in various colours and attractive designs, remain in high demand.
Poor enforcement by MCC
PoP Ganesha idols have flooded Mysuru from States like Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, with many traders benefiting from their sales. However, immersion of these idols poses a significant threat to aquatic life, and the use of PoP material degrades the quality of local soil.
Despite these environmental concerns, some traders continue to sell PoP idols, causing competition for locally-made clay idols, particularly affecting potters. Apathy on the part of the authorities is stated to be the main reason for the failure to effectively enforce the order regarding a ban on idols made of PoP.
While the sale of PoP Ganesha idols is officially banned due to environmental concerns, the Mysuru City Corporation (MCC) faces challenges enforcing this ban due to religious sentiments. In some instances, raids have been conducted, and fines imposed on traders, but strict and consistent action is required to curb the sale of PoP idols.
According to environmental activists, traders must prioritise responsibility over profit and provide better alternatives to PoP idols for the well-being of future generations. Environmental harm affects everyone, making it essential for PoP Ganesha idol sellers to commit to discontinuing these idols from next year.
Many families who celebrate Gowri-Ganesha festival make clay idols of various sizes and sell them. Places like K.T. Street, Kumbarageri and Agrahara have seen a surge in the preparation of clay idols. Skilled artisans are actively involved in crafting these idols, attracting environmentally-conscious customers.
However, youth groups, associations and organisations continue to promote PoP Ganesha idols, posing a significant challenge to clay idol makers.
In the vicinity of Mysuru’s K.T. Street, near Kumbarageri, Mahesh and Shobha from the Vidya Ganapathi Kalanilaya have crafted hundreds of Ganesha idols from clay, offering a variety of unique styles.
These clay idols include Ganesha riding on the moon (Chandrayaan), Ganesha holding a cricket bat for the World Cup, and more, all contributing to the eco-friendly celebration of Ganesha Chaturthi.
T. Manjunath, renowned for selling Ganesha idols in bulk under the name ‘Benaka Fancy World,’ has also contributed significantly to the clay Ganesha idol market, creating an array of clay idols, including those featuring Ganesha with a bow and arrow and various musical instruments.