One of the biggest festivals in Mumbai is the 'Ganesh Chaturthi', which lasts for several days and is dedicated to Ganesh. Every Indian deity has many names, including the popular Ganesh who is also know as Ganpati, Ganapati, Ganesa or Vinayaka. The most important day of this festival is the day of the Visarjan, when the statue of Ganesh is immersed in the water. People gather in masses to perform this ritual, taking the statue through the streets to the sea in a procession accompanied with dancing while chanting: “Ganpati Bappa Moriya, Pudchya Varshi Laukariya” which means "Oh Ganpati My Lord, come back again next year". The immersion symbolizes a farewell to the Lord who had descended on earth to partake in the festivities, embodied in the statue. During the Visarjan the Lord returns to His abode while taking away with him the misfortunes of his devotees. The Visarjan reminds all not to get attached to a physical deity. The festival unites the different casts in society. Even Muslims, Jains, Christian and others participate in the celebrations.
Over the years the public celebrations of the festival have become hugely popular, with local communities vying with each other to create the biggest statue. This is now supporting a whole economy of statue builders. Earlier the statues were made of unbaked clay. Nowadays almost all of them are made of materials that do not dissolve easily in water, such as plaster of Paris, causing the beach to be strewn with debris. Less visible, but of greater ecological significance is the use of toxic dyes. Industry uses cheap synthetic dyes instead of natural, biologically degradable ones to increase profits. Every year thousands of statues are immersed in the sea, in rivers and in lakes, resulting in an ecological disaster, killing aquatic life.
Although some people, governments and action committees are taking steps to prevent pollution caused by the Visarjan practice, there is a long road to go. The majority of the Indian population does not or can not concern themselves with reducing negative impacts on the natural realm. When it comes to traditions, people are generally reluctant to change and religious matters can be hard to discuss. The pollution of the beaches and the dying of plants and animals in the aftermath of this ritual is getting more and more attention in the media in India and the rest of the world, making it a topical issue.