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Making worship more environmentally friendly
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Making worship more environmentally friendly

Large numbers of Hindu devotees flock to India’s temples barefooted during the holy month of Shravan (July-August). It is believed that those who dutifully worship Lord Shiva during this month are bestowed with success, happiness and prosperity. They pour large quantities of milk and lay flowers and Bel patra leaves at their Hindu shrines.

These rituals, argues Karishma Arora, a Correspondent from India, are important religious expressions but they generate large quantities of waste. There are, however a number of initiatives that are combating this problem.

 

Around eight million tonnes of flowers loaded with insecticides and pesticides are dumped into the local rivers in India every year. Plus, immeasurable amounts of milk go down the drain in Hindu worship. Are such rituals making religious practices the enemy of the environment?

Thankfully, businesses have come up with innovative solutions that balance religion and our responsibility to mother earth.

HelpUsGreen, a startup based in Kanpur, decided to transform floral waste into useful products including incense sticks. The flowers are sorted and sprayed with organic extract to remove pesticides, washed, kneaded and rolled into incense sticks. The same incense sticks are reused in worship. The initiative has recycled some  2,753 metric tonnes of flowers  from temples close to the Ganges river and provides employment for women who used to be manual scavengers but now produce the handcrafted products that HelpUsGreen makes.

In an interview with the United Nations Environment Programme, Ankit Agarwal, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at HelpUsGreen said the initiative supported 79 women in 2019. But anticipated a significant increase by 2020.

Holy Waste  is another social initiative that recycles temple flowers.Inspired by Help Us Green and run by Maya Vivek and Minal Dalmia in Kompally, they convert floral offerings into fragrant soaps, incense sticks and natural compost.

Food waste during temple worship is being addressed by Project Abhishekam. It began in 2016 when the Rotaract club of Bhavnagar decided to sensitise worshippers about food waste. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that 189.2 million people are undernourished in India.

To address this issue, the Rotaractors ask worshippers to offer a spoonful of milk to the idol and give the rest to the poor. At the end of each collection, the club members boil the milk and distribute it among the needy in various locations.

In another amazing effort to combat waste, the organisation ‘Art of Living’ and ‘Coal India Limited’ have installed shredding machines across India. These convert flowers and leaves collected from temples into organic compost. It is then sold to farmers who utilize it to increase agricultural productivity.

A temple in Bengaluru, Karnataka stands out in its unique idea of reducing the plastic waste at the holy shrine. The temple management banned the use of plastic bowls to give prasadam, food prepared with devotion and offered to Krishna. Instead, they asked devotees to bring their own utensils. For tourists and other infrequent visitors, bowls
made of dried leaves are issued. While the implementation caused displeasure at first, it was successful in the long run.

These examples beautifully describe how rituals which are dear in Hindu worship and environmental responsibility which is vital to sustaining human life on earth can go hand in hand. It is said that, “serving mankind is serving God,”so  managing our temple waste is really another act of worship like laying flowers or pouring milk on our shrines during the holy month of Shravan.

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Photo Credit: Sonika Agarwal via Unsplash

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About Karishma Arora: My source of happiness is working for the vulnerable and underprivileged. I aspire to be a civil servant and contribute to public services. Some of my interests include creative writing, photography and debating.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles

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