MUMBAI, India (AP) — Every year, after months of pouring monsoon rains, millions of devout Hindus across western India step out to joyfully celebrate the birthday of Ganesha, the elephant-headed god.
Elaborate idols of the god are purchased and brought home, where they are worshipped. After a few days — every family has its own tradition — the idols, made either from Plaster of Paris or clay, are carried to a large body of water and ceremonially immersed. The beautiful ritual, however, leaves rivers, lakes and even the sea polluted with a mix of toxic paints and materials.
Over the past few years, people like Anand Pendharkar, a maker of Ganesha idols, have been experimenting with creations that are less damaging to the environment.
He's tried edible paints and biodegradable materials before, but this year Pendharkar has gone a step further.
His Ganesha idols now contain fish food made of corn, spinach and flour that can be consumed after the outer shell of clay has dissolved.
Shop owners in Mumbai, the capital of western Maharashtra state, say the demand for the eco-friendly Ganesha idols has been on the rise this year.
"Many customers who come here to the market, they keep asking for eco-friendly only," says Maya Shinde, an idol seller. The sale of the standard idols is falling, she says.
But change is coming slowly. Despite people like Pendharkar, the bulk of Ganesha idols this year were not the eco-friendly variety.
Photos by Rajanish Kakade and Rafiq Maqbool. Text By Muneeza Naqvi.