This article originally appeared on VICE India.
Air quality in India, especially in northern parts of the country like Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Punjab, has been down in the dumps lately. Even as state governments scramble to find ways to fix it, the dust hasn’t settled, prompting people to adopt anti-pollution masks into their daily routine. But turns out, regular citizens aren’t the only ones relying on this form of protection. A temple in Varanasi is even making its idols wear these anti-pollution masks.
After high particulate matter in the air following Diwali celebrations, Harish Mishra, a priest at the Shiv-Parvati temple in the Sigra area of Varanasi decided he had to protect the deities from the effects of air pollution by making them wear masks.
“Varanasi is a place of belief,” he told IANS. “We treat our idols as living deities and take pains to make them happy and comfortable,” he continued, pointing out that idols are often even wrapped in blankets during the winter. While most idols in this temple have been given their very own anti-pollution masks, the idol of goddess Kali is the only one exempted from this due to the belief that her tongue should not be covered.
“Bad air did not deter the people from bursting crackers on Diwali,” he added. “Now there is smog everywhere. But instead of doing something about it, municipal workers are only adding to the crisis by burning waste in the open. So despite the hue and cry, everyone is just contributing to the emergency. Until people come together to change their habits, the situation will never change.”
He also says that so far, making the idols wear masks has had a positive effect and even encouraged some devotees to follow suit and wear these masks themselves. Here’s hoping this unofficial message from the gods pushes people to care more about the planet.
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