Thursday, November 17, 2011

What's your festival?

One of my friends recently posed a question to me as to why Indians celebrate Non-Indian festivals, that are pretty much alien to them. He was bothered by the fact that instead of spreading the message through our festivals, we were trying to adopt practices not innate to us. If you think of it, it is so true that most of the urban festivals celebrated by modern India did not originate in our country, nor do they bear any religious significance. Then why do we make such a big deal about April Fool's Day, Friendship Day, Valentine's Day and numerous other such days? The biggest irony is that even though the Hindu calendar has it's own unique date for a new year, it is not celebrated with as much as zeal as 1st January.

What is it with us? Are we giving up our culture to adopt something new and irrelevant to us? The answer would be 'No', because it is not like we fail to celebrate our festivals with the same energy. Maybe the smaller festivals are not celebrated with as much as hoopla, but the major ones definitely are. So, what are we trying to do? Do as the world does and make a place for ourselves? Again, I don't think so.

The problem with us Indians is that we love festivities and celebrations of all sorts. Face it, our weddings themselves are like 5-day long festivals! No matter what the reason, we find a way to celebrate. India wins the World Cup, we are out on the streets with drums, fireworks and dancing, some other pious followers arrange for ceremonies to thank God for being there with the team and heralding success for it. Even a normal sport becomes a festival for us. For a country that has almost a 100 festivals a year, spanning a variety of religions apart from Hinduism, like Islam, Jainism, Buddhism, Christianity and Zorastrianism; it is not a surprise that we love colour, gaiety, and joy. And we find it any which way we can.

Living in America, it is amusing to see how easily Indians have taken to American festivals as well. I guess we believe in doing as the Romans do, or in this case, Americans. We have adopted the exaggerated fun from Halloween and the cheer from Christmas. All we want is one more day to add to our long list of festivals. Indians are that way very easily adaptable. We take up the customs and practices very quickly. As long as it fulfills the purpose of refreshing your mind.

After all, isn't that why festivals were introduced in the first place? Ganesh Chaturthi was popularized so that people could come together to interact and experience the community feeling. Sankarant was introduced so the farming community could celebrate the harvest season. All along, if you notice, the common thread is the reprieve that, being with friends and family brings to you. It is a way to give your mind and body a change from the mundane and be dazzled by the little joys that such gatherings flag on.

If that is the case, what is the harm in spreading the joy and cheer? If the festivities make you happy, why not celebrate life and it's blessings every day? You may address each festival differently, but if you strip it of it's intricacies, it is nothing but a way to get the brain to release more endorphins. What would be wrong is, if you completely abandoned your heritage, and tried to mimic something just to fit in. The old and new should go hand in hand, and that would surely be a celebration, a celebration of life and its different meanings!

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