An idol in Subernarekha in Jamshedpur last year
The goddess immersed in water to the sound of drumbeats and ululation, her face bobbing up and down before the idol sinks, is a poignant image.
But more poignant is the harm that mass-scale idol immersion causes to water bodies. Toxic paints, non-biodegradable ornaments, weapons, clothes and other accessories choke aquatic life.
In response to this pressing ecological worry, a section of Jamshedpur Durga Puja organisers are mulling bhoomi visarjan, a rare method of idol ‘immersion’ in land.
In this method, a deep pit is dug on the riverbank and idols, preferably without decoration, are buried in it with proper rituals. The idea is that when the river swells up, the clay will gradually dissolve in water.
Traditional puja committees are balking at this as idol immersion in water is an age-old custom. But, some members have agreed to moot the idea at the next meeting of Jamshedpur Durga Puja Kendriya Samiti on September 8.
“It is difficult to convince people to change age-old tradition. But we want to place this idea on the table to see how Samiti members react,” said a puja organiser, not wishing to be named.
“Pollution is a major problem. Though I hardly have any idea about this method of bhoomi visarjan, we can give it a thought at least,” said Pallab Dalal, vice-president, New Farm Area Sarbajanin Durga Puja Committee.
Jamshedpur Durga Puja Kendriya Samiti is also trying to convince idol makers to use organic colours.
Every year, Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board issues guidelines for immersion that are flouted. Immersions decrease dissolved oxygen level and increase biochemical oxygen demand in water. Tests for chemical oxygen demand, turbidity and total dissolved solids carried out by the pollution control board before and after the immersion also reveal the spurt in pollution.
On bhoomi visarjan, some organisers said the ritual was practised last year in some districts of Bundelkhand region — Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh — due to scarcity of water.
However, whether Jamshedpur adopts the practice depends on how progressive puja committees are.
If puja committees agree, they will have to take the consent of the district administration.
R.N. Choudhary, regional officer of the pollution control board, said if puja committees decide not to disturb rivers, it would be welcome.
“Every year we lay down guidelines but people don’t follow them. The waters of Subernarekha and Kharkai get polluted after immersion. Now, at least some committee members are thinking of alternative ways,” Choudhary said.