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Rising air pollution affecting festival of rays'

The Times of India, Kolhapur, 15th April, 2015


KOLHAPUR: Veteran scientist R V Bhosale has claimed that environmental changes and increasing air pollution might be the major obstacles to the festival of rays at the Mahalaxmi temple.


During the biannual festival, sun rays fall at the feet and face of goddess Mahalaxmi's idol and thousands of devotees throng the temple to witness the spectacle. However, during the recent festivals in November 2014 and February this year, the rays failed to reach to the face of the deity's idol.


Bhosale (85), an astronomist, studied the behaviour of rays in the last two months, referred to earlier records of the festival and presented his conclusions before the public. The thousand-year-old temple was constructed in such a way that on November 23 & 25, January 31 and February 1 & 2, the rays of the setting sun used to glide from the idol's feet to face.


"There have been studies about the physical obstacles; some of them have bee removed now. However, there wasn't any astronomical study available regarding the festival. Rays travel through the atmosphere and are refracted when they pass through the atmospheric prism. In the case of this festival, an artificial prism of polluted air, vapour, smoke and dust particles are causing refraction of rays. Hence, the rays cannot reach the idol's face," Bhosale said.


For the study, Bhosale presented a hypothesis considering the fact that the idol is of 1 mt and its distance from the horizon is 10 km. "We found in our study that the rays are getting refracted and failing to reach the idol's face. During this specific season, the activities of sugar factories and farmers are at their peak which increases air pollution. Besides, rapid urbanization also pollutes the air. The rays bent when they pass through this atmospheric prism," Bhosale said.


The research was conducted by Mass Initiative for Truth, Research and Action (MITRA), an NGO working in the environmental sector. Bhosale was assisted by S B Pawar, Uday Gaikwad and others.


"This study is significant since for the first time, we are talking about the environmental impact on the festival. In 2006-07, we studied the physical obstacles such as buildings, banners and hoardings. During the last 8-10 years, most of the obstacles were removed barring buildings. However, the rays were unable to reach the idol's face. Now, it seems that we have solved the puzzle. The government must consider this research and take action accordingly. If the air gets more polluted, we may miss the festival of rays permanently," Gaikwad told TOI.