I believe it is possible to hold views on Indian mythology and mythology based traditions, independent from one’s faith system (if you don’t believe this, you should at least watch this video). If you have been reading my blog and/or know me, you will know that Diwali is my most favorite Indian festival (sometimes, the Indian qualification is not even necessary). But regardless which festival is the one of your choice, most, if not all, festivals have few things in common — strong social networking within and outside the family, reinforcement of the values we believe in and ultimately some connection to faith.
The social networking aspect of Indian festivals is very strong and powerful in that relationships get created, nurtured and sometime even broken, thanks to these festivals. Classic example of this is the subtle match-making ceremony which is part of any major festival. Whether it is a family wedding or Diwali or Dussera or Holi, there is always a subset of senior citizens scanning and profiling all eligible boys and girls and speculating on who could be a match. Navrathri for example, has the young girls singing to the golu of each house they visit, a conceivably obvious act to impress the parents (or the boys) of the house.
Reinforcement of values like simplicity, humility, gratitude are — generally speaking — reiterated everywhere in the Indian lifestyle, but particularly so with festivals. Respect for the union of the people, rather than the individuals is an example of humility. Thanking each other and the mighty forces (such as in Pongal/ Sankranti) is an example of gratitude. Life has a funny way of treating different people, but by reinforcing the positive things and by symbolizing it with sweets, positive vibes are spread.
The last, definitely not the least, aspect of festivals is connection to faith. Regardless of your economical status, societal status, social status — the omnipresent aspect of Indian festivals is submission to the mighty. So powerful is the element of faith — it is not uncommon to see in India, people of other religions celebrate Hindu festivals, but attach the faith element alone to that of their own religion. There is also a non-insignificant population of people who choose to enjoy just the first two dimensions of these festivals and subtly — but summarily — reject the faith element.
This week is Navrathri, the nine nights of festivities and celebration, celebrated at the onset of autumn/ fall. My wife observes that Navrathri might just be my 2nd favorite festival. I wanted to write a post to reflect my thoughts and hence this one.