Idol Immersion of Ganesha Idol
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated to mark the birthday of Lord Ganesha. It is usually a 5 – 12 day festival which is celebrated in the Bhadrapada month of the Hindu calender. The festival is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm across India. The festival that is marked with bringing a Ganesha idol into our societies and homes, ends with Ganpati Visarjan (idol immersion of Lord Ganpati). Lord Ganpati comes into our lives and distributes happiness for the time he stays and at the end of the eleventh day, the idol is immersed in water. This symbolizes that nothing is permanent, not even God. As we immerse the idol, we hope that with him all our sorrows also drown and what is left is a great deal of prosperity and happiness for everyone around. It helps us understand that even if the body perishes the thoughts and ideas are always left behind. Be it an animal, a human being or even the idol of God, once we come into the world and our lifespan gets over we need to go. Even Lord Ganesha cannot escape this truth. It is up to us how we remember those who are not with us. After the immersion of the idol, also known as Ganpati Visarjan, Lord Ganesha is not forgotten. He remains in people’s hearts forever and we wait for him to come to our homes and lives very soon in the next year. That’s the reason the chant says “Ganapati Bappa Morya, Pudhachya Varshi Laukar ya” (O lord Ganesha, come again early next year).
The immersion is a special part of the festivities. Before taking Lord Ganesha for the visarjan (immersion), devotees perform aarti (a prayer form) and chant mantras. It is believed that all family members, friends and close ones should perform this prayer together. The ritual of immersion is usually characterized by offering five items to Lord Ganesha. These five items are deep/diya (oil lamps), pushp (flowers), dhoop (incense sticks), fragrance and food. As the aarti proceeds, the family members sprinkle uncooked rice and flowers to the deity. Then the idol is lifted from its throne and placed at the threshold of the house. During this time, people thank Lord Ganpati for coming to their homes and blessing them with prosperity and hope to see him soon next year. Then one of the member of the family takes the idol for immersion. The streets are filled with people, dancing, rejoicing and reciting prayers and chants. It is colorful mix of flowers and gulal (dry powdered color). The parade is usually accompanied by music from different kinds of musical instruments.
Keeping in mind the environmental factors, it is advised that all the garlands are removed from the idol before immersion. Initially the idols were made from Plaster of Paris (POP) but the material is non biodegradable and is not soluble in water, hence it poses a great deal of risk to the water bodies. Also the paints used to decorate the idols are dye based which prove to be harmful for the marine ecosystem. But now with increased level of awareness among the masses courtesy mass media tools like newspapers, radio ad campaigns, social networking sites etc the trend is changing. People are switching to idols made from clay. The paints used are also lead and heavy metal free. Also there are constant efforts to make people aware so that they try and immerse the idols in man made lakes, ponds or small water tanks instead of rivers and seas.
The festival is celebrated on a very large scale in Maharshtra and various film and TV personalities take part in the festivities. Going by the numbers, a leading newspaper quoted that in September 2011, nearly 40,000 idols were immersed in Hussainsagar near Hyderabad. In 2010, Mumbai saw 1,91,072 immersions as compared to 1,87,506 from the previous year.
The immersion helps us understand that change is inevitable. It makes us realize that the body perishes but the soul always remains. It also represents the circle of life. All good things come to an end, and are reborn in different forms at destined times. It teaches us that instead of being cynical about the end, we should celebrate life and look forward to the change it brings with it. It is a tribute to new beginnings, and leaves us with hope, that one can start afresh, no matter what the baggage.