Photographer Anjali Tiwari is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography. From project ‘Eco-friendly and Sustainable Worship, India’. To see Anjali’s body of work, click on any image.
India is a land of Gods and Goddesses. It is believed that there are 33 Million Gods of Hinduism. Some of these idols are prayed for the festival period (such as Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali and Durga Pooja) and gets discarded soon after the rituals are over. People in India leave these idols at the foot of Peepal trees or immerse them in river water.
As per Vastu Shastra (traditional Indian system of architecture) in India broken and damaged God idols are not considered auspicious and should not be kept in temple, even in the house. According to Vastu Shastra, these idols can attract negative energy which hinders peace and increases troubles in family. Thus, these damaged or broken idols are flown into a holy river or be placed around a Peepal tree rather than be left in the temple or house.
But in reality, more than ritual it looks like we dispose these idols in a hurry furry and throw anywhere to just get rid of them. Idols which were auspicious to us and were part of our family and home, how are they thrown away one day without any hesitation?
We worshiped their photos and statues bare foot and then abandon them in a place where people may walk on it, spit and urinate. Are these idols only show pieces to us to decorate our house and when gets damaged or fade we discard them and replace with a new one?
I understand that these statues and photos of Gods are only a representation of our believe on the one above us all. But we buy them, make part of our life, touch their feet, worship them, talk to them, share our emotions, request our needs and feel one with them. They are like our loved ones and we don’t do the same treatment with our family members then why with these idols?
The ritual of immersing an idol to send the Gods back home in heaven, but not all idols are immersed at all or properly or disintegrate in water, also due to the material like plaster of paris used now a days. These idols are often decorated with toxic paints which contains heavy metals such as lead and mercury which seeps into the water after the idol immersion, and adds to the acidic level of water which is not good for the environment and marine life. It can also cause skin diseases in humans.
The sentiment may be pure but in the reality is seems polluted and disrespectful.
One way of moving forward is using eco- friendly idols and models of Gods and Goddesses. Every year sculptors in India make thousands of God statues and we buy them. By buying new idols every year we can support idol makers in business so that they sustain, and using ecofriendly material will allow us not to be confronted by images of idols floating in dirt or laying under the trees. Another way is to dig a pit and dispose of the idols. Let’s dispose these idols and photos in a respectful manner and contribute to save our environment.
All images and text © Anjali Tiwari
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