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Ganesh Chaturthi is Teaching Us Sustainability

Ganesh Chaturthi is a beautifully celebrated festival in all Hindu households. I have always looked forward to this festival for the lovely and tasty kozhakattai (Modakam). It is one of my favorite dishes. In this post, I would like to share some insights on how and why we celebrate this festival during the month of August or September. I was amazed to know how our ancestors had tried to teach us sustainability through this celebration.

  • Usually, in olden days lakes and ponds were the only source of water for people. Hence preparing the lakes and ponds before the rainy season would ensure water sufficiency till the next year.
  • August & September are generally the months when the monsoon peaks in India and. being a tropical country, during summer the lakes would dry up and the lake bed would need some fixing. So the clay from the lakes are used to make the Ganesha idols giving the lake bed some good aeration.
  • Due to continuous usage of lake / pond, the deep areas lack oxygen which over a period of time will result in massive killing of fishes. Hence this festival is celebrated for 10 days so that the oxygen circulation is taken care of for the fresh lake / pond bed.
  • Also there would be a lot of accumulation of bacteria, algae and decaying of some organic matter due to lack of oxygen. This may produce toxins. With lake / pond bed being aerated these toxins can be reduced.
  • Post the festival the idols are put back into the lakes to make sure that there is sufficient clay / mud for the movement of water.
  • The above process naturally increases the ground water on the setting of the monsoon.
  • Now let us move on to the worship of Lord Ganesha. His clay idol is decorated with turmeric, sandalwood, tulasi and arugampul (Durva leafs). Arugampul is considered a very sacred leaf and is used extensively in the worship during Ganesh Chaturthi. These leaves grow in the wild and have roots that grow deeper in search of water. It also sprouts back faster showing man the power of regeneration.
  • It is believed that these when thrown in water, help in purifying the water due to their medicinal properties.
  • Even the food offering like kozhakattai is a very healthy option. It is steamed with rice flour, coconut and jaggery. All these ingredients are recommended from the medicinal side of Ayurvedha for health.
  • All the flowers used are also medicinal and mostly wild. Hibiscus, Erukku, Javandhi, Arali, Marikozhundhu and many more.

Overall the festival helps us realize the unity of life and nature. It shows us how to be sustainable in our approach towards life and worship too. Over a period of time, the festivities have gained precedence over the real reasons for the celebration. We have started using chemical based materials to create huge idols of Ganesha, which pollutes water. This totally defeats the very purpose of the festival itself. Instead of choosing a fancy Ganesha, we should go back to our roots and celebrate it the rustic, natural way. This Ganesha idol was done by my son hence this style 🙂

Wishing you a happy and eco-friendly Ganesh Chathurthi.


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