Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
Q: What is the scientific reason behind Ganesha/Durga visarjan?
Ganesha/Durga visarjan are based on cultural and traditional aspects, not on science. People who explain them in terms of ‘science’ are actually taking the route of pseudo-science, not real modern day science.
People usually give this explanation, which they say is science...
The waters get polluted and dirty during the Shravana and Bhadrapada months due to rains. The rivers overflow and get into forest lands, some dead animals get into the water, snakes come with the waters, it takes out all the mud and gets polluted and dirty. But water is everything and it is related to Ganesha, our sages have made a ritual to bring back the purity of the river water in which we take some clay from the river nearby, make an idol with it, worship that with 21 medicinal herbs of which some are water purifiers, some absorb toxins and some have very great medicinal properties. Finally, on the day of Nimarjan, we dump all the leaves along with the clay idol back into the river. These herbs purify the water and impose medicinal qualities into it which helps people who bath in the rivers in the coming winter, as well as the water, get into agricultural lands and so healthy crops.
All this can not by a single person. So they have made it a mandatory ritual for everyone. The great herbs used are,
Machi Patram (Artemisia Indica)
Bruhathi Patram (Solanum Xanthocarpum)
Bilva Patram (Aegle marmelos)
Dhurvayugmam (Cynodon dactylon)
Datura Patram(Datura Metel)
Badari Patram (Zizyphus mauritiana or Z.Jujuba)
Apamarga Patram (Achyranthes aspera)
Tulasi (Ocimum sanctum )
Chuta Patram (Mangifera Indica)
Karaveera Patram (Thevetia neerifolia)
Vishnukranta patram (Evolvulus alsinoides)
Daadimi Patram (Punica granatum)
Maruvaka Patram(Origanum majorana)
Devadaru Patram(Cedrus Deodara)
Sindhuvara Patram (Viex Nigundo)
Jaji Patram (Jasminum Grandiflorum)
Gandaki Patram ( Solonum Nigrum) or Jambeera Patram(Citrus limonium)
Shamee patram (Prosopis spicigera)
Ashwattha Patram (Ficus Religiosa)
Arjuna Patram (Terminalia Arjuna)
Arka Patram (Calotropis Gigantea)
The whole ritual itself is meant to remove the toxins and purify the polluted water.
But the truth is ...
A free, fast flowing river without any intervention cleans itself. It doesn’t need any external assistance. Organic matter is present throughout ecosystems. Rivers collect them at various stages of their flow from the surroundings plus they have their own organic content.
A majority of organic matter not already in the soil comes from groundwater. When the groundwater saturates the soil or sediment around it, organic matter can freely move between the phases. Groundwater has its own sources of natural organic matter also like for example, "organic matter deposits, such as kerogen and coal, soil and sediment organic matter, organic matter infiltrating into the subsurface from rivers, lakes, and marine systems.
Large scale organic matter you add with visarjans gets bound to minerals and metal ions. Because of the high level of reactivity of organic matter, by-products that do not contain nutrients can be made. These by-products can induce biofouling ( accumulation of microorganisms, plant products, algae etc.) which essentially clogs water filtration systems in water purification facilities. You have to use chlorination and other methods to disinfect them.
Because of organic waste you add during large scale visarjans the oxygen content of water decreases to low levels and the ecological quality gets heavily affected. Water quality gets effected.
Organic matter also frequently contain large quantities of suspended solids which reduce the light available to photosynthetic organisms and, on settling out, alter the characteristics of the river bed, rendering it an unsuitable habitat for many invertebrates and water plants.
So organic pollution affects the organisms living in a stream by lowering the available oxygen in the water. This causes reduced fitness, or, when severe, asphyxiation of fish etc.. The increased turbidity of the water reduces the light available to photosynthetic organisms like plants. Organic wastes also settle out on the bottom of the stream, altering the characteristics of the substratum. Human intervention in such large scales are not at all good for any eco-systems.
We are using plaster- of- Paris instead of natural products to make idols and are using toxic chemicals to paint them and make them more attractive to the eyes.
Today we are actually polluting the waters by these visarjans. And scientists are advising people to keep away from such traditions that cause more harm than good.