PUNE: With Ganeshotsav just around the corner, Manasi Kulkarni is busy preparing to get the ‘bappa’ home. However, she has made a slight change in the ritual. Instead of getting a ready idol from the market, she has made one herself.

With just a few days to go for Ganeshotsav, Manasi Kulkarni is almost at the last leg of her shopping for decoration material. But this year, her Ganapati idol will not come from the market as she has made one herself and is eagerly waiting to consecrate it in her house for the upcoming ten days of worship.

Like Manasi, several families in the city have chosen the traditional way of worship – sculpting the idols themselves. These idols are eco-friendly and economical, but more than that they are helping families bond better and creatively.

With a basic idea about the shape of a Ganapati idol in mind and little bit training from sculptors about handling clay, many Puneites say they have experienced unparalleled satisfaction while making idols.

“We bring home the Ganapati every year. It hurts to see the idol being immersed in the river after 10 days. This time, I have made my own Ganapati with clay which easily dissolves in water and can be re-used at home. Even the colours that I have used are eco-friendly. The entire process was easy and engaged our entire family in true festive spirit. I attended a workshop on how to mould the Ganapati idol this year. Next year, I will make it at home without any help,” said Manasi.

In our workshop, we were taught how to systematically make different body parts of Ganapati, and then to combine them together. It almost feels like you are bringing someone alive,” she said.

Vimannagar resident Swati Kulkarni said making her own Ganapati has given her the freedom to decorate it according to her choice. “It’s simple to do, but a great feeling to mould the idol and then embellish it too. Now I can use clay to make a lot of things,” she said.

For Shubhada Dalvi, it was not just about learning a new craft but also keeping the environment clean. “It’s a good feeling that I have played a real part in bringing the Lord home.

I prefer to keep the idol natural, without any colours. At the end of 10 days, we will not immerse him in the river, rather symbolically dissolve it in a bucket on our roof, thus preventing the kind of pollution caused by idols made of Plaster of Paris (PoP),” she said.

Across the city, artists and sculptors have been conducting idol making workshops. Mandar Marathe, who has been conducting Ganapati-making workshops for the last four years at his Kothrud studio, said there is a 20-fold increase in the number of registrations this year. “The trend has definitely picked up with each passing year. Modelling your Ganapati idol yourself is also a form of worship.

While it requires no special skill, the best thing about Lord Ganesha is his flexibility of form. Even if yours doesn’t look like the rest, he is still unique and exclusively your own creation,” he said, adding that he has had students of 8 to 80 years of age.

With the rising demand, Marathe has even created online video tutorials too. “There are people in different parts of the world, from US to Bangalore and Delhi who wish to celebrate Ganeshotsav, but are not able to find Ganapati idols in their local markets. Clay on the other hand is easily available and at least 21 people this year have availed the online workshop that I have created,” he said.

According to Marathe, the easy availability of raw material also makes idol making popular. “While PoP provides durability, the structures made with them are highly polluting. Natural clay is easy to handle, and once you immerse the idol in water, you end up giving back to nature,” he said.

Yamini Rathii, who too has been conducting idol making classes around the city since the last three years, said awareness about the environmental impact of PoP has made people turn to natural clay. “Even small children understand the concepts of pollution and encourage their families to bring home eco-friendly idols. The method of teaching includes making different shapes using clay, and then assembling them together. The entire process need not take more than two hours,” she said, explaining that over 80% of her students this year have pledged to consecrate their hand-made idols.

Artists Dilip and Darshana Thakar, who are conducting one such workshop in a city mall on Saturday, believe its all about the interest in doing something of your own. “It’s not so much about getting the shape and structure perfect, but about learning a new craft. The facial features of the Ganapati idol are the only tricky part, the rest is easy,” they said.