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Visual pollution during the Ganesh Festival

September 17, 2008

The religious fervour and euphoria of the ten days of Ganpati Bappa is over. People who fled the city to escape the din (there is considerable amount of sound pollution due to the use of loudspeakers) and the crowds, have come back. Politicians are conducting drives to clear the debris on the beaches. And many of us regret the environmental damage. Another thing we want to put behind us are the instances of intimidation/extortion before the start of the celebrations (to collect money for the Ganesh mandals).

There are two other negative aspects. One concerns aesthetics and the other, the gross commercialisation of the festival. I am not talking of the loud filmi music played at the mandals, but the presence of brands. Whether it’s Idea or Hero Honda, or Lizzat Papad, scores of brands were given permission by the municipality to put up posters and banners and hoardings acrosss Pune city, particularly on roads with the mandals. I am not sure what the financial arrangement was here, how much the mandals got, but I am sure they got something too.

Even if they didn’t, I don’t see why a religious festival has to become an opportunity for the government to make a few extra bucks. All billboard norms were thrown to the wind! I am not in Pune now, but I wonder if these banners have been removed or whether they have been carelessly discarded and are rotting in some ditch! The government knows that no one will protest because the minute anything is “religious” people bear it in silence. People are afraid that if they protest others could well question their faith in God. How else to explain the uglification of a city and people’s tolerance levels? I cannot believe that anyone thinks that polluting the city with ad banners has anything to do with religion.

These are some of the pictures I took during the Ganesh Festival. They speak louder than words.

The brand is not visible in the picture below – it’s Airtel.

And do you think our politicians will pass up an opportunity to plaster their mugs on banners in the guise of wishing the citizens Happy Ganesh Chaturthi?

(All pictures were taken by me in Pune and are copyrighted)

Related Reading: Shocking water pollution caused by the Ganesh Festival
Billboard epidemic in India!
Dangers of sound pollution
Political hoardings/billboards ruin a city’s landscape

Read all posts on the subject of Environment

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35 Comments leave one →
  1. September 17, 2008 9:21 am

    A new pollution class, added to the piles we already have. Nice work.

    thanks Tarun and welcome to the blog! – nita.

  2. September 17, 2008 9:48 am

    Ah, after Ganpati season, its usually the blog season for posting pictures of beaches with discarded remains and big talks about environmental cleanliness. I’m so glad to see something original that few people seem to notice :) Nita you get a drink on me.

    But we do have to learn a lot about aesthetics and it has to start right from our homes. Many people live in unclean messy houses out of habit than compulsion, no wonder they dont notice (or care) about eye sores in public places.

    PS: Me first to comment :P

    Thanks Priyank! That point you mention about the homes is true…I think many people here are dependent on servants. I know people who don’t bother to clean their houses if the servants don’t arrive!
    And btw, someone beat you to the first comment! :D The comment was on moderation. – nita.

  3. September 17, 2008 10:31 am

    Commercial sponsorship has elevated this and many other festivals to a different level.

    Whilst we lament on this invasion, I guess, it suits every one and the “devotee” does not seem to be overly concerned.

    We could look at this as an opportunity to utilise sponsorship money to initiate imaginative changes in the way “sarvajanik” festivals are celebrated.

  4. September 17, 2008 11:30 am

    In a increasingly advertisement driven world such things are disconcerting but not necessarily wrong. While our senses are bombarded with promotional material left, right and center, companies are also struggling to be able to communicate to us because we are also becoming more immune to traditional forms of advertisements. Use of remote and Tivo in TV, ad and popup blockers on internet, and ability to ignore adsense while reading content is of our own making, thereby forcing companies to go extra mile. Further, revenue generated from advertisement can only make things better for Ganesh celebration, may be more upkeep of pandaal, better decoration, more new gadgets, batter quality prasad, less need for donation, etc. So I wouldn’t resist these but would only channel these to right direction.

    (And no, I am merely a student, not ad agency rep)

  5. September 17, 2008 11:40 am

    That is an intresting develpment, ads around tempels…I am a bit surprised at the speed of matrerialism plague in India-….Nita, you fotos is something I never seen even in the West.

  6. September 17, 2008 11:53 am

    Mavin, the funds being used for constructive purposes seems a fine idea to me…but does anyone know where these funds are going and what is being done with them? Is there even a separate account for funds from ads from ganpati mandals? Only an RTI application will reveal that. :(

    Ashish, as you can see from my reply to Mavin’s comment, we are far away from using these funds constructively. And let me add, I am pro-advertising. I am just for balance in everything.

    Axinia, thanks. When I was sorting out the photos during my first ganesh post, I discovered that I had a lot of these pics with ads in them. In fact this post has been ready since then!

  7. September 17, 2008 12:23 pm

    @ Tarun Goel:

    “… added to the piles we already have.”

    Have you seen a doctor? ;-)

    @ Nita: Sorry. Open flank, could not resist :-)

    Shefaly, I thought it was a new addition to the Indian English dictionary, if there is such a thing! :) I hope Tarun finds this as funny as we do! :) – nita.

  8. September 17, 2008 12:59 pm

    @ Nita/Axinia : Gods have always been material, if you go to the Pashupati temple in Kathmandu you will notice that you are not allowed to take any leather products inside the Temple except your wallets. Leather that contains money is most acceptable! I do not see anything wrong with advertising in temples or festivals. Its a very good opportunity because religion is one of the most popular recreations in this country.I like lijjat papad btw, you have made me want to have one now….

  9. September 17, 2008 1:06 pm

    There are religious people who come and pray and there are people with the commercial bent of mind who organise the banners and raise the money to fund the fanfare, who are devotees with a mission.
    It is unfortunate that the protection of our environment is not at all our priority. Ecofriendly Ganapati idols and some loads of common civic sense is needed. Let us pray to the Lord for that to happen!

  10. Nitin Mahajan permalink
    September 17, 2008 1:45 pm

    Nice post Nita.
    Visual pollution is a terrible sensory assault and often neglected because its impact cannot be directly measured.
    Sao paulo in Brazil has a complete ban on all forms of outdoor advertising.Hopefully, we can do the same starting Pune.

  11. Nitin Mahajan permalink
    September 17, 2008 1:47 pm

    @Shefaly
    “Have you seen a doctor? ”
    ROFL.

  12. September 17, 2008 2:04 pm

    Nita,
    This happens after any festival, from elections (?) to Ganesh Utsav.
    More money is thrown in, more ads, everybody vying to get more eyeballs. Who is to be blamed?

    Shefaly,
    That was a real ROFLMAO line :-)

    -Nikhil

  13. September 17, 2008 2:17 pm

    Nice post… commercialization of festivals if done for good use is ok, but we never know, until,as rightly pointed out by you, some files for a RTI.

    Guess what happened in Pune yesterday.Ganesh idols immersed in the tanks PMC has provided for immersion, so that mula and mutha can be spared, were taken out, carried to the rivers and dumped there. PMC has cheated everybody.It is a front page news in Pune Mirror today.

    Saving the environment huh?. :( :(

    Sharad, I am shocked!!! – nita.

  14. September 17, 2008 2:18 pm

    Thanks for linking… dont know why pingbacks are not appearing.

  15. September 17, 2008 2:43 pm

    well,we make a lot of waste..”paperless society” is only a dream…well at least they aren’t spamming our inbox :)

  16. September 17, 2008 5:55 pm

    Visual pollution…well,apt word. .
    i too dont see any reason why a relegious festival should be exploited commercially in such a large scale ..
    PS : the above pics are shocking indeed..

  17. September 17, 2008 6:54 pm

    Interesting
    the political ones being most interesting depict the pecking order of the predators called politicians.
    i was gonna click a few pics especially in central areas of parel lalbaug etc but my mobile battery had run out so i abandoned the venture

  18. September 17, 2008 7:20 pm

    First, I love the header pic. Which place is it?

    I came to know another negative aspect of Ganesh Festival in my city. Apparently at most of the pandals, they had enclosures all around the place except for one gate (in my city pandals are set up in open fields) and there sat a ticket seller. One had to buy a ticket of Rs 5 to have Ganpati’s darshan!!!! Talk about pimps of religion! And this is becoming a trend. Appalling!

  19. September 17, 2008 7:42 pm

    Nita, commercialism has taken the fun out of most of the festivals.
    // our politicians will pass up an opportunity to plaster their mugs on banners in the guise of wishing the citizens Happy Ganesh Chaturthi?// this irritates me the most. Even the most insignificant of politicians put hoardings and banners all over the city. They should be made to pay for the space they are using to advertise themselves.

  20. September 17, 2008 8:18 pm

    Commercialism at its finest. Sad that the environment has to pay for all of that waste.

    The closest thing to religious festivals I’ve attended were at Shinto shrines, so to see the differences is quite something. They tend to be serene, respectful of nature and their residing spirits, and well, Zen.

  21. September 17, 2008 8:51 pm

    I have no problem with running ads during festival. It is a good source of income for the concerned. But if they don’t remove it after the day is done, then that is a problem. I do have problem with loud filmi music though, where is the culture and religion in that? You celebrate Ganesh festival and hopefully you don’t want to listen to “Khallas” song from Company.

  22. September 17, 2008 8:59 pm

    Odzer, time for people to question the very meaning of God then!

    Gopinath, I wish God could select his devotees!

    Nitin, I am all for banning outdoor advertising although I am pro-advertising. I love nature and outdoors too much to be able to bear the visual pollution.

    Nikhil, true all our festivals have detoriated to an obscene level of “show.”

    vishesh, but they are…ads are spamming our inbox. I guess they haven’t started targeting you as yet, wait a few years!

    Arvind, Prax, thanks

    Reema, that’s a beach on the outskirts of Pondicherry. Ruby beach the tourist bus operator told us.
    I like your term “pimps of religion.” The biggest one sit in the biggest temples of India. The highest bidder gets the best “show.”

    Prerna, politicians are sickening. And now all this is going to reach a crescendo as elections are nearing. And even after the elections if we don’t get a single majority govt, there is going to be cacophony than ever! The price of democracy!

    Mish, that is what religion is really about –

    …serene, respectful of nature and their residing spirits, and well, Zen.

    I long for such understanding to reach our populace.

    Dinesh Babu, ads are fine as long as they don’t create a clutter and uglify the place…but tell me, what is the logic of the government making money out of a religious festival? What is the need for it? As for loud filmi music at mandals, its disgusting.

  23. September 17, 2008 10:26 pm

    Also nita we indians are jugadu
    a few of the ganpati posters will be recycled in diwali the rest will act as roadside stall roofs , pkg material etc

  24. September 17, 2008 11:09 pm

    That “piles” comment reminded me of a visit to a friend’s house a few years back. We kept on asking his father to sit with us and he always stood at the door smiling and refusing. After sometime another friend whispered in my ears to shut up and told me the reason. :)
    About the post, well, we tend to commercialize everything. The worst example is the shirts which cricket players wear. They look like they are wearing a collage.

  25. September 17, 2008 11:51 pm

    That’s just another of the three thousand reasons why I hate Ganpati or any other such festival.

  26. September 18, 2008 4:53 am

    Ashish,
    There’s a good reason why as you say, “use of remote and Tivo in TV, ad and popup blockers on internet, and ability to ignore adsense while reading content” is so prevalent, only if businesses opened their eyes and acknowledged that, instead of using their fancy economic theories and jargon to justify their actions. :)

    I mean, which festival is next? Raksha bandhan? ;)
    Maybe some digitized rakhis that have a jingle playing every 20 minutes would help those businesses reach out to consumers. Or has that already happened?

  27. September 18, 2008 5:00 am

    People need to answer some questions – what’s the purpose of a Ganesh festival? What’s its significance in their lives? And whether these ads and banner help or hinder?

    I’d think that people, if they are concerned about this, are not restricted from joining their neighborhood organizing committees where such decisions regarding ads and banners are made.

  28. September 18, 2008 1:25 pm

    aaaaaaa great term ” visual pollution” should congratulate who ever said that first …

    Yes, hell lot of hoardings, etc etc.. its of course a kind of pollution ..

  29. September 18, 2008 9:39 pm

    Religious festivals has been turned into mockery and profiteering by govt. and private sectors. This goes to show “what you see, is what you don’t get”.. People don’t seem to understand and appreciate the importance and the spirituality aspect of such festivals.

    Everything comes with a price-tag these days. Shameful is a small word for these acts. Even the environment has to face challenges from the waste management. At home, some tend to keep their “mandir” and the surroundings clean and pure. Why not apply the same ethics and cleanliness in the outside world?

  30. September 19, 2008 11:41 am

    Amit S, :)

    Kris, these things can be very off-putting!

    Prax, true, we do quite a bit of recycling…and that’s the silver lining. But the ugliness remains. During the festivals we should make our cities pretty, not ugly.

    Kiran, I agree the spiritual meaning of the festival is taking a back seat.

    Amit V, true all of us need to do our bit. As for what the festival really signifies, what matters more to people is ‘enjoyment.”

    Dinu, I have no idea who coined that term…certainly not me.

  31. September 20, 2008 8:13 pm

    Yes, all that is said is true but I have a slightly different opinion.I am not sure how many people will agree , but the enthusiasm and the ‘Josh’ of people for such festivals has reduced in past few years.
    This year , I felt that lesser people participated in processions in pune. (Was that just because of heavy rains?)

  32. September 21, 2008 11:03 pm

    well nita i have been visiting your blog quite often..but today i feel like leaving a comment….well i have never been a part of ganesh festival…..but after reading your post….it took me across the other side of it……i think these festivals are loosing their fervor day by day..because its just another money minting tact for many people …and with commercialization of festivals it seems that the sanctity is totally lost…..time is changing and that too furiously!.but thanks….it was an eye opener! :)

    Arpit, thanks. Always great when a reader shows himself! :) – nita.

  33. September 22, 2008 7:29 pm

    Same situation in Kolkata, only its happens during Durga Pujo…….or shall one say Brand Pujo!

  34. September 27, 2008 5:29 pm

    Nita, Fantastic Post!
    Made me think of a few things…
    One is that commercialism has touched every part of India- I have seen it not only here in your photos, but in remote villages in the south (Painted on sides of house and compound walls) and where it surprised me most- in the backwaters of Kerala! Along side the waters, cement fences I believe were created for this purpose. And what about people who sell their compound fence facing roads for ads any time of year? And these ads are so tacky.
    Your post also made me think of this… “Ganesh Festival bought to you by… Airtel… Kingfisher Airlines..”Etc Etc. What’s to stop the murthi makers from accepting these ad monies and donning Ganesh with a shirt of the same? Recently we got a gift from India- a Ganesh sitting on a pedestal with a website printed in big letters on it. I don’t want to look into puja stand and see http://www….com as it will distract me from other more important issue.. albeit that I don’t even visit that site :)
    Thirdly, it brings me to why Ganesh is celebrated in such a big way anyhow. I believe that Ganesh was a household festival among Brahmins but to bring some community unity, freedom fighters bought it out of homes and encouraged it to be a festival to celebrate respective of caste and creed (I wrote about this on my blog- “Lord Ganesh Freed India From the British?” http://alaivani.com/Blog/tabid/56/EntryId/130/Default.aspx and also wrote about how we celebrate here in US on small scale (in fact this was published in Marathi in your daily Loksatta) “A Promise to Lord Ganesh: One American’s Journey to Celebrating Ganesh Chathurthi in America” at http://alaivani.com/Blog/tabid/56/EntryID/265/Default.aspx
    Thanks for continuing to expose your ideas and world to us through your fantastic blog!!

  35. rakesh permalink
    January 3, 2009 9:30 pm

    Hands up to you Nita.
    keep up the good work- keep telling the people .

    “All should be in accordance with nature for mere humans to survive, or, shall the humankind face the dire consequences of the wild nature”

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