Have you ever wondered what happens to the mounds of flowers, that are presented as offerings to deities, in religious institutions across India? India is a country where nearly every locality has a temple, mosque, church and gurdwara. So, while it is safe to say that the flower business in India is thriving, it comes at the cost of our environment.
Take Varanasi for example. Lakhs of devotees visit the holy city on a daily basis, and according to a 2013 report by The Times of India, it was found that roughly 3.5 to 4 tonnes of floral waste goes down the drains every day.
And this is just one city. Imagine the scale of waste that must be generated across the country!
This is precisely why there’s a pressing need to address floral waste management across all religious centres in the country. This way, flowers could be recycled for various purposes, thereby reducing our waste burden on the planet.
By transforming the floral waste generated by the renowned Mahabodhi temple into natural dyes, this is precisely what Praveen Chauhan, a social entrepreneur and designer from Gaya in Bihar is doing, through his social enterprise, MATR.
MATR is the Sanskrit word for mother.
An alumnus of National Institute of Fashion Technology, it was the need to revive the Khadi culture and uplift the local weaver communities that led Praveen Chauhan to move back to Bihar and establish MATR.
Using only natural resources for production, the venture’s foundation rests on the vision of a sustainable future and they try to achieve this through environmentally responsible initiatives.
The enterprise, which is now a known name in not just national but international spheres for its Khadi products and collaboration with local artisans, has helped the weavers gain better knowledge of market trends and grasp the underlying need for changing with time. By taking Khadi to international fashion capitals such as London, New York, Milan and Paris, MATR is helping local artisans find takers for their fruits of labour from across the globe.
How does floral waste management fit into all this?
Recently, MATR joined its hands with Because of Nature, an Australia-based sustainable clothing label and unfurled the Happy Hands Project. The initiative was conceived with the goal of bringing sustainable employment to the local women by repurposing discarded floral waste from the ancient Mahabodhi temple to make natural dyes for the Khadi products.
Post the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee (BTMC) and The Happy Hands Project, discarded and unused flowers and decorative items from the temple premises are now being routed to create natural dyes.
About 50 underprivileged women are part of the project, under which the collection and transportation of the materials is being undertaken by MATR.
Thanks to Praveen’s conscious efforts, not only is the issue of temple waste being resolved but concerns such as unemployment and fading traditional skills are also getting addressed. We hope that this remarkable initiative inspires religious bodies across the country to formulate similar efforts.
You can check out MATR on Facebook here.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)