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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Make this mandatory!


A trend-setting South-Delhi Durga Puja pandal led by its mercurial President Ashok Bose introduces a dramatically innovative eco-friendly tank immersion procedure. TSI's editor a.sandeep gives an inside view and asks why the courts aren't making this mandatory...
TSI A.SANDEEP | New Delhi, October 18, 2013 14:07
Tags : Dakshin Palli Durga Puja Samiti | Ashok Bose | CR Park | Bengali | Goddess Durga |

The coordinated cacophony of drums, cymbals, conches, people shouting praises of the deity in unison, engulfing laughter, and a general sentiment of joy seeps in faster and deeper than one could have expected, especially for a non-Bengali that I am. I'm at the Dakhsin Palli Durga Puja Samiti's puja celebrations in New Delhi – this is the tenth day, the day when the idols are immersed – and the experience is simply electrifying. This is the first time in the history of puja celebrations in India, and in fact across the globe, that the immersion of the idol of Goddess Durga and of other puja idols is being undertaken within the puja pandal itself, using a set of uniquely fabricated eco-friendly steel tanks.

Without doubt, not only is this concept of tank immersion dramatically innovative, but more importantly, given the moribund state of health of our national rivers due to a massive increase in polluting elements (with visarjans of deities contributing their mite to destroying our rivers), this path breaking eco-friendly initiative has the potential to rewrite the future of idol immersions.

Says Ashok Bose, President of the Dakshin Palli Durga Puja Samiti, and the man behind the tank-immersion innovation, "Since the last few years, whenever we have gone to the Yamuna for immersing the idols, we have noticed an increasing number of critical issues. Badly managed immersions, fights between immersing groups, law and order issues with the police unable to control the vandals, people dying after being pushed into the river due to the crowd, not to say the least that the idols being immersed themselves were and are made up of completely toxic material – from paint to artificial jewellery to thermocol and much more."  This prompted the Dakshin Palli committee seven years ago to be the first movers in making eco-friendly idols. Anything that was there in their idols was non-toxic – rather than paint, thinners, varnish, only vegetable dyes and water colours were used.

If that created a trend of sorts, then the recent eco-friendly tank immersion concept initiated by the Dakshin Palli committee is expected to beat all past records. Ashok Bose shares, "In reality, first we had thought of getting fire fighters to water down the idols. People objected, mentioning that that would not look respectful. After a lot of brain storming, we struck upon the tank immersion idea. Our secretary PK Paul, a highly technical individual, ensured that the fabrication of the tanks was perfected to world class standards." But wasn't the CR Park community apprehensive? "We consulted Dr. Muktipodo, head priest of Kali Mandir Society, CR Park," says Bose, "He said that our bodies have to go back to the earth. So the idol, which gets life out of our slokas, on the tenth day is actually immersed ritually in a small religious vessel, which symbolises the return to earth. Because the idols are big, pandal committees take them to the river for immersion. So we knew we were religiously on the right path."

And as far as the fun and frolic surrounding river immersions goes, none of it was missed in the Dakshin Palli pandal tank immersion, where hundreds of people, especially senior citizens, who could never have gone to the river immersion, attended in full spirit and marked out the Samiti for praise. Adds Bose, "Also, support from print and TV media has been superlative; from Times of India, Hindustan Times, Hindu, Sahara Samay, NDTV, ABP, ZEE and many more". And now other committees across the nation have started calling up Ashok Bose to give them consulting advice on how to set up tank immersion systems for the next year.

Adds Ashok Bose, "I have already written to the government that they should allocate money officially to visarjan samitis across the nation to make eco-friendly tanks so that this procedure can be standardised."

The social responsibility bent has been ever present in the Dakshin Palli Puja Committee. In the 2011 puja celebrations, the committee got many physically challenged poor children to their pandal, showed them around, conducted games, and involved them in the puja rituals. In 2010, the committee conducted many medical camps during the puja time. In 2009, the committee's pandal got the Best Idol in NCR award from Sahara Samay. In 2010, they again got the Best Idol in NCR award, this time from The Times of India. In 2012 again, Lok Satta gave the committee the Best Idol award; additionally, the Mela Ground Puja Samiti  also gave them the Best Idol award. And this year, the number of awards are expected to be phenomenally high, not just for the quality of the idol, but mainly for the tank immersion concept.

Coincidentally, as if on cue, the Allahabad High Court, on October 8, 2013, banned the immersion of idols in the Ganges and Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh (order applicable from next year). The question is, why aren't the courts immediately banning immersions across India? If the fear of hurting religious sentiments is the reason, then one can safely say that the case study of tank immersion led by the Dakshin Palli Durga Puja Samiti provides enough evidence that by encouraging involvement of civil society and affected groups, tank immersions could be made a brilliant alternative to river immersions. This South Delhi committee has ubiquitously defined its own world-beating path. India needs to follow it now.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017