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Indian artist creates organic version of elephant idol, saving Mumbai's sea

AFP , Tuesday 9 Aug 2016
Dattadri Kothur
In this photograph taken on August 2, 2016, Indian artisan Dattadri Kothur prepares an eco-friendly clay idol of elephant headed Hindu God Lord Ganesha at the "Tree Ganesha" workshop in Mumbai. (Photo: AFP)
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When Indian artist Dattadri Kothur saw the pollution caused by an annual Hindu tradition of immersing elaborately decorated idols of the elephant-headed god Ganesha in the sea, he decided to do something about it.

The 30-year-old has come up with an environmentally friendly alternative that will make its debut during this year's festival in the western city of Mumbai -- and is already proving a huge hit.

Kothur's "Tree Ganesha" idols are made entirely out of organic materials that will disintegrate when they get wet, and are designed to be watered like a plant rather than immersed in the sea.

Once they are dampened, seeds hidden inside them will germinate, creating a lasting memento of the idol.

"After witnessing large-scale water pollution and broken idol parts strewn across Mumbai's Girgaum Chowpatty sea front, I decided to create an organic alternative," Kothur told AFP.

"The response to Tree Ganesha shows people are aware of environmental pollution and want (a) long-term sustainable solution."

Kothur has fulfilled nearly 500 orders and he and his team are hard at work producing another 3,000.

The 11-day celebration that honours Ganesha, the son of Lord Shiva, and goddess Parvati is celebrated with idol worship, music and dancing across India.

Mumbai, India's commercial capital, traditionally hosts some of the largest gatherings.

Millions of devotees gather every September for the ritual immersion of the statues, some 24 feet (seven metres) tall, in the Arabian Sea.

In recent years, activists have sought to raise awareness of the environmental damage that the immersion causes.

The traditional statues are made from clay or plaster and dipped in a white coating before being painted. They disintegrate very slowly, releasing harmful chemicals as they do so.

"With my idols, Ganesha lives on in the form of plants and goes back to nature," said Kothur.

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