This paper discusses the programme that was initiated to shift the venue of immersion of Hindu idols in the city of Bhopal.
This paper begins with an analysis of the rationale for idol immersion in Hinduism. Some of the reasons given by the author include water being able to disintegrate idols, the idea of purity of water etc.
A break down of the number of idols immersed in the Upper Lake of Bhopal is provided. In the year 2000, the lake received about 15000 Ganesh (370 tonnes) and 1300 Durga idols (99 tonnes). Many of these idols, are made of thermacol and use oil based paints which are destroying the lake and also pose a health hazard.
An attempt was already being made to save the lakes in Bhopal through a Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC) aided Bhoj Wetland Project. Also the Madhya Pradesh Government had begun the Lake Bhopal Conservation and Management project in 1995. Under the aegis of this project in 1999, along with the support of other NGOs, an extensive campaign was begun to increase awareness among people of the need to save the quality of the potable water of the Upper Lake of Bhopal.
Religious groups and political parties were also approached for support. More importantly an alternative site was identified and promoted. The site was the spill channel of the Upper Lake. Approaches to this area were built and facilities to immerse and clean the area arranged. The area was ready for the 1999 Durga Puja. This site grew in acceptance and is now the main immersion area.
The entire campaign has been broken down to give an insider's view. A key learning that the author highlights, is that there is need to communicate, educate and enlist the entire community in such projects.
This paper was presented at the National Seminar on Water and Culture organised by Kannada University and Sahayoga in 2007.
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