It’s that time of the year again, when every street is decorated like a newly-wed bride; when every kid is awaiting the arrival of a guest who visits every year only to reunite the essence of strength, goodwill, happiness, and unity. Every household will be basking in the glory of mouth-watering dishes and floral decorations as they gear up to welcome the lord of appetite and joy, Shree Ganesha.
Celebrated in the entire country with a great deal of vigour, Ganesh Chaturthi commemorates the power of elephant-headed god Ganesha. On this auspicious day, Lord Ganesha is prayed to in the hope that every new activity is completed successfully, without any obstacles.
However, there is a heart-wrenching flip side to the essence of festivity that sinks into every Indian — the fact that our water bodies have to carry the heavy baggage of pollution from the idol immersion that occurs as part of the visarjan process. Every year, when after the 10-day festivities the idols made up of harmful chemicals and paints are immersed into our lakes and rivers, the ecosystem is affected so adversely that it needs years to recover. Ironically, it is never allowed that breathing space because we repeat the cycle at exactly the same time the next year.
The harmful effects of idol immersion have been a cause of worry for a lot of people, but it is Dattadri Kothur, a 30-year-old upcoming entrepreneur from Lower Parel, Mumbai, who has a solution, which he proudly calls Tree Ganesh.
Born in 2015, Tree Ganesh is Dattadri’s pet project. Walking us through the journey, he says,
The name ‘Tree Ganesh’ came up when we kept chanting the word Shree Ganesh, which we usually chant before starting a new project. Since it rhymed and yet reflected the theme, we chose to call our initiative by this name.
Located in Lower Parel, Mumbai, the team is a group of eight young and vibrant artists. Dattadri, also a senior artist at an art agency, is a qualified commercial artist with his roots in Andhra Pradesh. But he has spent a large part of his life in Mumbai and lives in a family of three elder siblings and a retired father, him being of them youngest of them all.
Every visarjan we visit the Chowpatty to immerse our idol and every year the damage we give back to the water bodies in the name of festivals is absurd and hence I came up with this idea.
Post the festivities, each of these idols can be immersed in a pot, with each one growing back into a lady’s finger sapling. Starting from a small size of 12 inches, the idols are available in medium (15-inch) and large (20-inch) sizes. In 2015, when he started the project, he made only one idol for his family but shared the making of the video on both Whatsapp and Facebook to spread awareness.
Soon, the video was viral and has today successfully grabbed the attention over 1,80,000 people on social media. But this year, Dattadri set up a website for the orders and in five days, he has received over 500 confirmed requests, with over 4,000 requests to extend the timeline. In only one year of commercial marketing, he has made a revenue of over three lakh and intends to invest the amount in expanding his presence.
I created a Whatsapp group of 60 people to share the project and I never realised my friends put up the video on Facebook and it received an overwhelming response. Today, my entire street knows who I am and am positive about reaching out to many more people, says Dattadri.
Each of these idols is made out of red soil collected from the Dharavi slum. Soon after the moulding, the lower end of the idol is stuffed with organic fertiliser and seeds.
After a lot of research, I realised that the lady’s finger is one plant that is not seasonal and requires less maintenance and space, and hence I opted for it.
The eyes are the only part of the idols that have any colour; the rest of the sculptures are left brown. It takes around three to four days for the idols to dissolve and retain their old form, which is that of mud.
Talking about his future plans, Dattadri shares,
I will consider my initiative a success when I sell over one lakh idols, which will imply that there are one lakh plants.
While the festivities are nearing and will enthral the entire country, it is individuals like Dattadri Kothur who embody their true spirit.