With over 33 million deities in our pantheon, festivals are a way of life in India. Rarely does a day go by when someone in some part of the country is not making an idol to be worshipped by millions at a festival.
The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is no different, marked by beautiful idols and sundry extravaganza.
However, Rintu Kalyani Rathod, a Mumbai based baker, added an innovative twist to the conventional proceedings of the festival. She confessed to being appalled by the way in which self-proclaimed devotees desecrated the environment by immersing idols – often painted and decorated with toxic chemicals – into water-bodies, thereby polluting them irreversibly. She has publicly acknowledged that the state of the rivers and other water bodies after visarjan pained her, with idol debris and other paraphernalia floating around all over them, rendering them polluted and a public health hazard. The same issues can be seen in other parts of India during major festivals such as Durga Puja in Bengal, Chhatt in UP and Bihar, etc.
‘Drunken people dancing in hordes to vulgar music is not devotion,’ she proclaims.
To remedy the situation, she came up with an extremely unconventional idea, an amalgamation of the two things all kids love the most – chocolate and Ganpati Bappa!
With 35 kilograms of pure chocolate, Ms. Rathod made a Ganpati idol that was over 38 inches tall. It is a tradition with her; one she had also partaken in last year, when over 1100 people enjoyed the prasad of her devotion.
Rintu shared her accomplishments and the motivation behind them in a Facebook post that was both moving and inspiring.
The iconic Ganesha is kept in His idol form for around four days. On the day of the visarjan, the chocolate idol is immersed in milk and dissolved, completing the age-old ritual in a completely original manner that preserves both faith as well as the environment. The chocolate milk thus produced is being distributed amongst the underprivileged children of the city, who are often left out of such celebrations for no fault of their own.
Ms. Rathod believes that those who drink the chocolaty prasad of Ganpatti Bappa shall always carry a part of the Lord within them, becoming one with divinity. Last year, over a thousand people drank the chocolate milk, and even more participated in her way of worship this festival season, when hundreds upon hundreds of poor children found their prayers answered in the most unexpected way imaginable!
It is said that within the pure souls of children is God’s favourite place to be, and Ms. Rathod certainly subscribes to this view. Be it saving the environment or feeding the hungry, she does it all with all her heart, the blessings of Lord Ganpati upon her. She plans to continue this practice for years to come, spreading happiness and blessings in her wake as she single-handedly teaches the world that devotion, faith and kindness to our fellow beings can all go hand in hand!
Let us all learn a little bit from this true devotee of God and attempt in our own small ways to celebrate festivals in their true spirit, as they were meant to be celebrated, not just for our own happiness but for the happiness of all those around us!