Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How to Celebrate a Hindu Festival

There's no need for pomp and show. Whom are you showing how grandly you celebrate? Whom are you trying to impress with your Hinduness? You don't get any marks for this. Life goes on as it did before and after the festival.

Here's something to remember: the celebration is your own private joy or respect between you/your family and your god.

It's Ganesha's time now, this time of the year. Polish your little silver idol of the god, clean up your pooja space, get him a flower or garland if you like. Have a bath before you do any of this, if you would like to offer the cleanliness of your body as respect to God. Prepare a few sweets to remind your family of the tradition: modaks/kozhakattai. Light a lamp, light an agarbathi. Pray. Try to be a better person for the day, to show respect to God.

You want to share the joy of the festival with friends and family? Go ahead, share home-made sweets, go on short visits to distribute them. Want to sing bhajans? Sing them in your home or join a few friends to do it.

There's no need for microphones and speakers. No need to dig up clay from near waterbodies, model them into enormous Ganeshas, paint them with toxic colours and immerse them in the sea along with garlands, coconuts, plastic bags and dirt from your feet. Offer God the cleanliness of the planet. Show that you're taking care of His creation.

Diwali: Similar to the above. Replace Ganesha idol with that of Lakshmi. Light more diyas. Ban firecrackers. Simply ban them. They burn money, poison the environment and hurt/deafen/kill living creatures.

Holi: Appreciate the colours of nature that still survive around you. It's a spring festival: observe how insects and birds behave in the spring. Wear colourful clothes. Do away with the coloured water. There's no longer a point to it. Do away with the bhang, too.

Have you listened to a group of people sing in a house, with all kinds of voice talents, in harmony? If you hear them when it's quiet, like at night, you want to stop whatever you're doing and listen. There are ragged voices of those who never learnt to sing but sing anyway, their minds on the song; there are dialects from different regions; the song is in a language you don't even understand fully--but you know and feel what they sing about. It's a holy moment. Not only because they sing about God, but because they sing quietly, together.

Let us celebrate quietly, in harmony with our surroundings, with our neighbours, and with ourselves. Then we can reach for bigger and greater things that are beyond our minuscule understanding. Things such as God.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is almost impossible in the Indian social milieu. People don’t consider a festival celebrated until they’ve brought down the house with noise and mayhem.