Happy Ganeshotsav! Every year the festival celebrating Lord Ganesha’s birth involves the installation of beautifully crafted idols of the God on Ganesh Chaturthi and worshiping them over a period of 11-days only to be immersed in water on Anant Chaturdashi. Since the use of plaster of Paris and chemical colours for idols has led to significant environmental damage, a lot of people are now changing their ways of celebrating Ganeshotsav by following an eco-friendly route. One of them is Mumbai-based commercial designer-turned-baker Rintu Kalyani Rathod. She specialises in making life-sized cakes and chocolate sculptures especially of Ganesha. This year, we got a sneak peek into the baker's eco-friendly way of celebrating Ganeshotsav. (Read: Traditional Offerings at Ganeshotsav)
As soon as we enter her home, the sweet and delightful scent of chocolate wafts through the air. It is a nice and airy place, and we could see the work in progress: moulds of Ganpati idols in a corner and some dark and white chocolate Ganpati waiting for a coat of edible paint. Rathod has been working on edible Ganpati idols since 2011, for the first two years, it was made with almonds and sugar only to be immersed in milk and distributed (almond milk) to kids in a nearby orphanage. Since kids love chocolate, she moved on from almond to chocolate to make these homemade edible Ganpati idols.
On being asked about initiation of the idea, she says, "It all began when I used to go for morning walks near Juhu beach and post-visarjan I saw some heart-wrenching visuals of the idols strewn across the beach. Since I’m trained as a commercial designer, I specialise in making life-sized cakes and sculptures, I thought why not use my skills. The idea was always to make something eco-friendly, and while doing so take an extra step to help people as well. So, by not harming the environment, following all the rituals properly and also feeding children, I started celebrating the festival in a different way. From sarjan (creation) to visarjan (dispersion), everything is done at home, so that I do not contribute to the rising pollution. "
Rathod soon started conducting free workshops to make people aware of the eco-friendly way of celebrating the festival and to help others learn how to make edible Ganpati idols. She has started taking orders for chocolate Ganpati idols since last year as more and more people are not only appreciating her efforts but also want to be part of this incredible cause. (Also read: Modak Gets a Makeover in Mumbai)
She makes the handmade chocolate Ganpati idol at her home, it is made with modelling chocolate and corn syrup, the two ingredients are mixed well to make it more pliable and then shaped accordingly. When using moulds to make the edible Ganesha idol, chopped chocolate is melted using a double boiler or chocolate melter and poured into moulds. Once it solidifies, the moulds are opened and the parts are manually assembled. With some finishing touches and some edible paint, she adds more definition. Customised handmade chocolate Ganpati idols starts from Rs 50,000 and ones made from moulds start at Rs 1100 for a 7-inch idol.
Last year, Rathod made 26 idols and this year she is making 51 idols. She does everything single-handedly, which is why she has moved on to using moulds to speed up the process a little. Not just Mumbaikars are keen on bringing home chocolate Ganpati idols, the baker proudly adds that some of her chocolate Ganpatis has travelled to Honk Kong, Singapore, Dubai and Australia. The change in temperature does not affect the idol. The only thing someone traveling with the idol has to be careful about the box containing the idol so that it does not get damaged. By next year, the baker is hoping to tie up with some courier services to help her deliver the idols. Her future plans involve employing rural women for the same to help them with their livelihood.
Just like any other Ganesha idol, after preparing one, the sthapna follows. The only difference is the idol is kept below 32⁰C and away from direct sunlight to protect it from dust and heat. To keep ants and other insects away, spices such as cloves and cinnamon sticks are kept near the idol. Another hack the baker suggests is to mix turmeric powder with water to make rangoli around the idol to keep the insects away from the idol. Also, the diya needs to be at least 1.5 feet away from the idol and the rest of the must-haves of puja such as flowers, garlands, durva is fine with the edible idol.
On the day last day, the idol is immersed in a fair amount of milk in a huge vessel and the chocolate milk is then distributed to underprivileged kids.
Images: Sohail Joshi
Chocolate ganpati visarjan image courtesy: Rintu Kalyani Rathod
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