Architect shares his 20-year-old journey of promoting eco-friendly idols

Khajanchi, founder of Nirmitee Arts, has been making idols from various bio-degradable materials — papier mâché, terracotta, coconut shells, fruits and vegetables to name a few.

Though the trend of eco-friendly Ganesh idols among people is recent, a few nature lovers have been contributing to the environment for many years. For the past 20 years, 60-year-old Surendra Khajanchi, an architect, has been making eco-friendly idols and spreading the message of keeping the festival pollution-free.
Khajanchi, founder of Nirmitee Arts, has been making idols from various bio-degradable materials — papier mâché, terracotta, coconut shells, fruits and vegetables to name a few. "As a nature lover, when I started the artwork, I wanted to do something for the environment. Every year, after the immersion days, we see waterbodies in a bad state due to PoP idols. In 1997, when we started, we made idols using clay, shadu mati, papier mâché, dry vegetables and fruits," he said.

"The trend of eco-friendly idols has picked up recently in Maharashtra. During those days, less than 1% of the population was aware about it. When we started with this initiative, we had around 10 customers who were willing to buy such idols."

The size of the eco-friendly idols ranges from six inches to 24 inches, and they are painted with natural colours. Talking about the unique idols made from dry fruits and vegetables, he said, "For these, people have to book at least 30 days in advance. The idols are made up of vegetables, fruits and seeds, coconut shells, bamboo sticks and bottle gourd to name a few. The requirements vary from customer to customer."

Khajanchi has 25 artists and an art designer Meeta Punamiya to design the idols.

Besides the eco-friendly idols, he also produces PoP ones but asks customers to immerse them at home or keep the idol in the temple at home. "I tell those buying PoP idols that they too can participate in making it eco-friendly by immersing it in a bucket or artificial pond and then bringing the idol back home," he said.

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