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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 September, 2004, 18:30 GMT 19:30 UK
Ganesh immersions ruled unlawful
By Sampath Kumar
BBC correspondent in Madras

Immersing Ganesh has become more popular in recent years
The Madras high court in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu has imposed a temporary ban on immersions of idols of the Hindu God, Ganesh.

The court upheld a petition which said the idols are made of chemicals which pollute the sea and other water sources.

Hundreds of idols, big and small, are taken to the sea in Madras at this time of the year.

They are immersed as part of a Hindu festival which begins later this month.

Fundamentalist groups

The petition filed at the high court said that the sea and other water resources are poisoned by chemicals used to make the Ganesh idols, and the practise should be banned.

The court accepted the petition and imposed a stay on such immersions.

Ganesh idol in Bangalore
Ganesh is one of India's most revered gods

The court also issued notices to the state government and the Pollution Control Board to explain their stand on this issue.

Observers say that the practise of immersing Ganesh idols during Hindu processions began 15 years ago during the Ganesh Chaturti festival.

This festival was started in the nearby state of Maharashtra by the Indian independence fighter Loka Manya Tilak during the years leading up to partition.

It was later adopted by certain Hindu fundamentalist groups.

Each year the number of the idols immersed has increased.

So too has the size of the idols, which are normally made of papier mache.

One critical observer described the practise as a pathetic sight, because an image or idol which was previously worshipped ends up being beaten, dismembered and ultimately left to fall apart in the water.

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