PUNE, INDIA, July 29, 2013 (Times of India): A city-based social enterprise that produces eco-friendly figures of Ganesh Deities is wrapping up its first batch for shipping overseas. The Deities are made of papier-mache.
Starting out with a mere 60 clay Deities, the enterprise has now grown to 3,500 Deities this year. "For years, we received requests from devotees abroad who celebrate the festival and would like to have our eco-friendly Deities sent to them. But our clay Deities are heavy and fragile so we were not sure they would survive the journey," said Lolita Gupta, who leads the Ganesh campaign for eCoexist, which has been promoting Ganesh Deities made from natural products for the past seven years.
Gupta and her team found a solution in the papier-mache Deities made by members of the Aniruddha Upasana Trust. The Deities are made from paper pulp and painted with natural pigments -- turmeric, geru (red-earth) and multani mitti (Fuller's earth).
"The paper that goes into the making of these Deities has a special significance. One of the spiritual practices of the trust is to do puja in the written form. So they have sheets and sheets of paper with sacred mantras written on them, which are then recycled into the paper pulp that is used for making the Deities," Gupta added.
This year, eCoexist has received several orders, most of them from students pursuing higher studies in the United States. While there are several options in sizes and designs available in the clay idols, for now the only option available in papier-mache is a 23-inch Deity titled Gajavakra. "We do hope to diversify and are looking at fashioning a variety of Deities from papier-mache," Gupta said, adding that research and development is always ongoing.
Citing an example, Gupta said that while the bulk of the colors of all their Deities comes from natural ingredients, the fine lines of the eyes are still painted with watercolors. The artists are now experimenting with kajal or coal-black to get the same impact. This year, every Ganesh Deity will also be adorned with the Beeja Prasad - a small cloth-sack containing a seed of an indigenous tree.
"We want to take the message of conservation further. So we encourage our clients that when they immerse the Deity, they should plant this seed. Thus, each of our Deities would also signify the planting of a tree," Gupta said.