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Floral Waste to fragrant incense sticks

Updated: Aug 12, 2020

India is known as the land of culture and ever-flowing traditions, which makes it one of the oldest civilizations in the world. As a token of faith pilgrims bring offerings to religious places and pray for good health and prosperity. ‘Pushp-arpan’ offering flowers, is an ancient and most common expression of faith, prevalent across India. Flowers are considered as holy entities and therefore offered by the pilgrims at the temple.

More than half a million people go to temples daily and offer flowers, but we rarely care about what happens to the offering we make. Most often, the piles of flowers along with polyethene packets, sachets, and other plastic items, is dumped at dumping grounds or conveniently pushed into the nearest water body. Every year, eight million tonnes of flowers are dumped in the river and the damage also includes the toxic pesticides and insecticides used to grow them.

Maybe culturally it was not looked at as waste and was okay to be immersed into water bodies. But today's scale and toxic chemicals used makes it considerably hazardous for the water ecosystem. The philosophy of reincarnation has travelled through mythologies and dominates Indian value system

“The embodied soul moves from one abode to another. It takes birth each time and gathers to itself a mind, life and body formed out of the materials of nature according to its past evolution and its needs for the future" - Holy Gita

The value derived by transforming is the core idea of reincarnation. Floral wastes have a tremendous & unexploited potential of being converted into wealth by using simple and inexpensive measures. Interventions have been made to convert floral waste into fragrant incense sticks and cones. Hence, the entire idea is to put them to good use as a non-toxic product at the same time enabling local women with better livelihood opportunities. This eco-friendly initiative is not only marking a step towards environment conservation, but also promoting social inclusion by engaging women of marginalized communities. These initiatives have enabled women who were previously engaged in bidi-making or other manual labor, to work with dignity in non-hazardous environments. It is also a means to empower them, as it allows saving enough time and resources to focus on their child’s education and other responsibilities. Temple floral waste previously polluting water is circled back into the economy. The reincarnation of flowers, help efficient waste management of temples, generate better livelihood opportunities and has the potential to emerge as a landmark strategy for controlling pollution at waterbodies.

Heritage Craft and Community Division, INTACH organize skill development workshops to converting floral waste to incense sticks, under 'SACRED WASTE PROGRAMME', to empower women around religious places across India. Major benefitted regions include Maihar, Shekhawati and Jammu to name a few.

Organizations working at their respective capacities are:

INTACH at multiple locations across India

CSIR- CIMAP, Lucknow

Holy Waste, Hyderabad

Help us green, Kanpur

About the Authors

Vikas Dargan (LinkedIn) is an Architect and a cultural professional with three years of experience of working towards craft revival and rural livelihood generation.

Piyush Dhawan (LinkedIn) is the Cofounder of the Circular Collective was awarded the prestigious German Chancellor Fellowship last year to work on the topic of Circular Economy. He has for the past decade been working with Bilaterals and Multilaterals on a range of topics including business and biodiversity, Vision 2030 for Haryana and Future of Indian Cities. 

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