Devotees urged to use biodegradable floats for fest

(From left) Kanabathy, Subbarow, Tharman and MHS Penang committee members showing eco-friendly mini floats.

DEVOTEES attending the Masi Maga Theppa Thiruvizha (Floating Chariot Festival) at Sri Singamuga Kaliamman Temple in Teluk Bahang, Penang, this year, are urged to send off eco-friendly mini floats.

The temple committee is advising devotees to use biodegradable materials known as panchagavya or panchakavya.

This is a mixture of cow dung, cow urine, milk, curd and ghee which is then allowed to ferment.

Temple chairman A. Kanabathy said the mixture could be shaped into lamps, with a wick inside.

The lamps can then be placed on plates made of dried and crushed betel nut leaves, padi husk and sugar cane husk.

“Devotees can also use cut banana stems to hold the lamps.

“All the materials we suggest are completely biodegradable so we can protect marine life and avoid sea pollution.

Lamps made of panchagavya can be placed on a plate made from dried betel nut leaves, padi and sugar cane husks or put inside a cut banana stem.Lamps made of panchagavya can be placed on a plate made from dried betel nut leaves, padi and sugar cane husks or put inside a cut banana stem.

“Such environmentally friendly approaches will make the festival more meaningful,” he said at a press conference at the temple grounds recently.

He also said this was the third year the temple, together with the state government, Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) and Malaysia Hindu Sangam (MHS) Penang State Council, was promoting eco-friendly alternatives for devotees.

Some 50,000 devotees are expected at the 127-year-old temple on Feb 24.

Celebrated during full moon, the festival started almost 70 years ago. It will begin with prayers at the temple at 6pm.

The main chariot decorated with lights and flowers bearing the temple deity will be taken on a journey out to sea.

Devotees will release mini floats decorated with lights and lanterns into the sea after making a wish during the procession to the sea.

CAP education officer NV Subbarow said panchagavya was a natural growth promoter, considered nutritious by farmers.

“It can easily dissolve in water and even act as feed for the marine life,” he said.

Subbarow said that previously, decorated lights released at sea were made of clay (agal vilaku) and fixed onto polystyrene and foam-based materials which were light and floated easily.

“Foam and polystyrene are non-biodegradable and cannot break down into smaller pieces. They are then ingested mistakenly as food by fish and turtles,” he said.

MHS Penang chairman A. Tharman said more devotees were switching to eco-friendly alternatives now, adding that biodegradable floats would be sold at the temple grounds on the festival day.

“We are expecting some 10,000 mini floats to be released into the sea on the day,” he said.

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