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Retiring unwanted Icons and Murties


Icons of Indian deities adorn everything from greeting cards, wedding invitations, calendars to books, magazines and newspapers.  Oneperennial question that comes up is - How should we dispose these sacred images without feeling bad or guilty?

Murties of deities are often given as presents.  What happens if we don't want to keep it?  What could / should we do?  Sometimes our house shrine / temple gets too crowded and we want to remove some of these icons, murties / deities.  How best can we do this without upsetting the deity or invoking their wrath?

Traditionally, there are 3 places where we can do 'visarjan' (formal farewell > removal > disposal) of deities.  We do a formal visarjan to disperse the positive spiritual energy and vibes we have built up in the sacred image during seva / puja.  Ofcourse, images on calendar etc would not have been offered any worship or puja.

1) Water.  Any large and moving body of water is considered to be an
ideal place to dispose of icons and murties.
Clay murties dissolve in short time, releasing the positive energy acquired during puja.  This release of positive energy within the river / sea benefits everyone.  If we are not near a moving body of water, a lake or a pond is a workable alternative. 
Murties made of organic material - eg wood or paper – decompose / dissolve readily in water and do not cause any pollution.
Murties made of inorganic materials do not dissolve in water.  Stone is inert and doesn’t cause any pollution in the water.  Metal murties can oxidise and leave rust.

2) Earth.  We can always bury an image in the ground and let Mother Earth disperse the energy of seva / puja for benefit of everyone.

3) Fire.  For Hindus, Agni is sacred and is a medium for taking spiritual energy from mundane world to the divine one.  Consigning sacred images to fire seems like an extreme step, but it is a valid form of visarjan.

Visarjan in these 3 methods does feel like ‘final rites’ and understandably people sometimes get upset by it.

4) We can always take unwanted murti / idol / icon to a temple and outsource the visarjan formalities to the temple authorities.  But this can feel like ‘abandoning a baby at the orphanage’.  So how best to do dispose of icons / murties / idols we no longer want is much debated question and one that evokes a lot of emotions. 

For what it’s worth, here is my opinion :-

Calendars, cards, magazines should be placed for recycling where possible.  
Metal and stone murties can be consigned to Earth or water at sacred places.  In-fact silt from pilgrimage sites often yields a lot of vintage / ancient murties.  These sometimes get picked up by others and are worshiped in their own mandir or end up in museums across the globe.      

Disposal of murties made of plaster-of-paris is most controversial as there is no easy way for these to dissolve or disperse easily.  The paint used on these murties is often toxic for aquatic life.  There is a huge push on the social media for reverting back to clay murties and of disposing plaster-of-paris murties in static bodies of water to spare polluting rivers and seas.

Before visarjan of sacred icons you have worshiped during seva or puja, I would recommend doing the following – 
1st - thank the deity you are about to exile from your house / mandir for all the blessings they have given you over the years. Attitude of gratitude is important.

2nd - explain your reason for retiring them. It is best to explain your actions in your own words. God is kind. S/He will understand andmay even empathise or sympathise with you!

3rd - seek their permission to dispose of them. It is always best to request someone to leave than to push them out of your house - especially someone who has been beneficial and kind to you over the years.

4th - dispose the idol / murties / icon with care and consideration.  Please make sure we don’t pollute the environment through inconsiderate visarjan. 


Here are a couple of other links for visarjan
1) Visarjan 1
2) Repair or replace icons?


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