If you are an extra-religious person, please don’t read this article. The truth can hurt your sentiments.

India, a land of Gods, a land of Festivals. India is a country where people from all the religions of the world live. Hindus, Muslims, Sikh, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, Jewish, Sindhis and much more. With all these people living under the one roof called India, each one of them is accustomed to celebrating each other’s festivals together. 

With so many Gods, there come many worshippers, at many abodes, celebrating many festivals. All the religions have their way of worshipping and celebrating their gods but one thing that is getting hampered due these customs is the environment.  

Indian worshippers follow many traditions which have, over the years, become one of the most significant reasons for the pollution. This is because, the people worship their gods with flowers, oil, clothes, food items, water, milk and everything. It is people’s belief and reverence to pay respect and serve their gods in many ways. 

However, the god does not consume all of this stuff. So where it goes? It ends up garbage dumps, drains, dumping grounds and ultimately either into rivers and oceans or is burnt to smoke and ashes. 

Every year tons and tons of garbage are generated from Temples, Mosques, Gurudwaras. This garbage includes the offerings plated by the reverent (Oil, Flowers, Milk, Food Items, Camphor, Clothes, Incense Sticks and Plastic Packaging of all the former things), the decorative items (Thermocol, Plastic Wrappers, etc.). All of this garbage is collected from the religious destinations and become part of the large piles of dumps in dumping grounds or end up in rivers or oceans. 

Some  Major Events

These are some of the many things which account for the major pollution of water bodies after industrial waste disposals. The famous tradition of submerging idols of Gods like Ganesh Ji, Durga Mata in Hindu religion and Tajiya in the Muslim religion is yet another major cause of water bodies’ pollution. Every year millions of Ganesh Idols on Ananth Chaturdashi and Durga Idols on after Navratri is one of the major causes of water pollution. In just one day, it replicates the effect of tons of garbage dumped by Industries in the oceans and rivers in months. 

We blame the industries for polluting the water bodies but alongside we perform religious activities and rituals which are the second biggest reason for pollution. God did not tell us to pollute the motherland. It is us humans who derived rituals which were not eco-friendly. Although these were not alarming up until the population of the nation started crossing red lines. With a large number of worshippers, the frequency of these activities gets hiked. 

The beaches of Mumbai gets polluted every year with the 10 day Ganesh Festival going around. The most populated city of the country has millions of people dancing to the high-frequency DJs on the streets, colourful bombs, crackers, and clouds of Gulaal (Colored Powdered) in the skies, and immersion of Ganesh Idles in ocean water along with decorative items and people’s offering, is a single source of sound, land, air and water pollution all at once. 

These idles are made up of Plaster of Paris (POP) which takes several months and maybe years to dissolve is not a natural substance. It is a synthetic material developed in factories and industries and is calcium sulfate hemihydrate or (CaSO4, ½ H2O). On dissolving in the water, it releases gypsum, sulphur, magnesium and phosphorus in the water. The paints used in these idle mercury, lead, calcium, carbon which increases the acidic levels of the water, hampering the marine life. Apart from this, the natural flow of water gets blocked due to the dumping of idles, resulting in lots of mosquito generation. 

This article can hurt the sentiments of many people because these are traditions were started long ago and are inherited by people from ancestral generations. However, with the growing population, the pollution rates have multiplied. The religious rituals and activities take place at such great levels that pollution caused by them in one day can take more than a year to curb. 

Worshipping of the Goddess Rivers 

In India, rivers are considered deities and goddesses as they serve the daily needs of millions of people. Ganga is considered to be one of the holiest and worshipped rivers of the country. It has religious values in the Holy Scriptures and texts of the Hindu religion.

However, over the years, it has become the most polluted river in the country. Credit goes to lots and lots of religious dumps ending into the river. People come from across the country to take dips in the holy river in the name of religion. Pandits carry out havan rituals and last rites of people on the banks of the holy river. Millions of people every day indulge in various religious activities on the banks of the river in cities like Varanasi, Haridwar etc.

Apart from this, many rituals require worshipper to submerge or float the things in rivers, like people sending Diyas in rivers, flowing away from the offerings in rivers and many other things. However, the most disgusting of all rituals allow people to flow the corpses of their deceased ones in the river Ganga as an Antimsanskar (last ritual). These bodies float in the rivers to get decomposed by the aquatic life. 

As per the research conducted by WHO in 2015, the level of pollutants in the Ganga river is 3000 times more than the permissible limits. Being the 2nd biggest river in the country, Ganga covers a distance of 400,000 sq miles in India. As per the research conducted in 2015, the river passes from 29 cities having a population of more than 100,000, flows through 23 cities having a population between 50,000 and 100,000 and near about 48 towns. Around 40% of India’s population relies on the river for their daily water needs.

Another river, the Yamuna which considered as one of the wives of Lord Krishna as per Hindu Scriptures, is the most polluted river of the country. The Yamuna covers a total of 1376 km across India of which only 22 km (2% of total stretch) is covered in Delhi. It accounts for 70% water supply of Delhi. However, Delhi dumps around 1900 million litres of waste dump directly through 18 drains in the river which accounts for around 58% of Delhi’s total waste and 70% of Yamuna’s total pollution. Apart from Delhi, Agra and Gurgaon are the two significant players in Yamuna Pollution. 

Another Indian river Hoogli flowing through the metro city of Kolkata, West Bengal receives millions of tones of religious dumps through the on Durga Ashtami festival. It is the most polluted river in north-eastern India. Of the total pollution of the river, 90% is caused by only 20 canals from the city of Kolkata only. 

What to do?

On one end, we worship the rivers and water bodies in the name of religion and belief. On the other end, we are dumping them with our waste and garbage. Our festivals are the most prime times when these rivers receive the pollution caused by religious rituals which is equivalent to that caused by Industrial factors. Not only Industrial but religious factors needs to be re-administered to become eco-friendly. We may blame the nation as a whole for the poor condition of our environment. But a nation is formed of millions of Individuals. Hence, the change begins at you.

– Adopt natural ways of worshipping the god. Religion was made to protect and help humanity and their beliefs. Let us not make it the reason for our destruction.

– Instead of using idols made of POP, use eco-friendly idols made up of clay and soil which dissolves easily in the water and don’t cause pollution either.

– Instead of pouring down thousands of litres of milk, oil and water on idols of deities, use them to help the underprivileged section of the society.

– Further, the fruits, vegetables, flowers which we offer to god, instead of throwing them in rivers and lakes, use them to make organic manure and use them for crop growth and plantation.

– Replace the thermocol, plastic, synthetic glues etc with natural flowers, grass and other bio-degradable or some re-usable material for decorating godly abodes.

There may be a million ways to serve and worship god, but there is only one way to save the nature and planet and that is by becoming aware of the danger that lies ahead and restructuring our habits and rituals to reform them into an eco-friendly one. The god made this world for every one of us to live. Let us make it worth again.