A young boy covered in pink powder.

Eco-Friendly Ganesha Idols for Ganesh Chaturthi

Surf excel has been a proud advocate of celebrating the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in a greener, more eco-friendly way for some years now – just take a look at some of the nationwide events we’ve organised in the past in this video about being eco friendly on this special day here.

Why do we do this? Because every year, thousands of environmentally damaging idols are submerged in ponds, rivers, lakes, and the sea to mark the end of Ganesha Chaturthi.

Sadly, many of the popular figures of Lord Ganesh are made of plaster of Paris, and decorated with other non-biodegradable materials like plastic and chemical paints. When these idols are tipped into water, they disrupt natural ecosystems, dispersing poisons and debris far and wide.

A much more appropriate way to celebrate the Ganesha festival is to replace these damaging practices with traditional crafts and rituals that are more respectful to mother Earth. And we’d like to help!

Find out how to make eco-friendly Ganesh idols with your kids using our step-by-step guides below. 

A Greener Ganesh Chaturthi for Kids

Children are our future, which is why Ganesh Chaturthi is an ideal opportunity for parents to teach their kids how to celebrate festivals in an environmentally friendly way. Many families now choose to reuse metal or stone idols in their Ganesh Chaturthi rituals, or submerge environmentally friendly idols in specially constructed tanks or buckets of water at home.

Everyone benefits from these respectful, modern adjustments – even the flowers, who get a good watering straight afterwards! Traditionally, Ganesha figures were made from unbaked clay that dissolved in water easily.

Why not encourage your child to use clay, salt dough or paper mache to make your family’s idol this year? Click the links to see what the end product will look like!

Think about decorating your idol with materials like wood, paper, and cloth made from natural fibers; use natural dyes and paints; and wrap offerings in paper, instead of plastic bags.  

How to Make Eco-Friendly Ganesh Idols from Clay or Salt Dough

The basic components of a Ganesh figurine are pretty much the same, regardless of the material you use. For this method, you can buy powdered or ready-made clay from art and craft shops, or use our recipe for salt dough here.

Alternatively, you can use the paper mache pulp described further below. Before you start, just remember to protect all your surfaces, and keep our stain removal tips to hand to help return messy clothes to their original clean state!

  1. Roll out some clay or dough into a thin, rectangular shape about a cm thick to use for a pedestal for your Ganesh to sit on.
  2. Roll a big ball for the body and place it in the middle of the pedestal.
  3. Roll a small ball for the head and elongate one part of it to make a trunk.
  4. Bend the trunk up a bit and position the head on the body.
  5. Roll two similar shapes (about the size of the head) to create legs, and position these on either side of the body, curving round to overlap at the front.
  6. Roll two cylindrical shapes for the arms and attach these to the back of the body, then curve them around to the front and position them as you like. A raised hand for blessing, or a hand cupping a lotus flower, are both good options.
  7. Roll another two balls of clay, and flatten them to create ears that you attach to the back of the head.
  8. Roll two tiny pieces of clay, or insert toothpicks to create tusks.
  9. Fashion a headdress of your liking to place between Lord Ganesh's ears. 10. Scratch or paint in eyes and other textured features to complete your idol.

How to Make Paper Mache Pulp for Eco-Friendly Ganesh Idols

You will need:

  • Shredded paper or a roll of toilet paper
  • A bucket
  • Hot water
  • A sieve
  • Flour
  1. Place the shredded paper or toilet paper in a bucket and pour hot water over the top, so that it covers the paper.
  2. Leave the mixture to soak overnight.
  3. Use your hands to mush up the mixture so that it is lump free.
  4. Add two tablespoons of salt to make sure the pulp stays fresh.
  5. Strain the mixture, so that all the water is squeezed out.
  6. Mix up some flour and water glue (1 part flour to 3 parts water) and add this to the pulp.
  7. The pulp is now ready to use like modelling clay: it can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days, and will harden when it is dry – just follow the method above to make your Ganesh idol!

Have you made an eco friendly Ganesh idol before? How do you and your family plan on celebrating Ganesha Chaturthi? Share your thoughts in the comment box below!

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