On the left side in the photo is my son’s family and on the right side is my daughter’s family.
As usual, Diwali has come and will be celebrated in Gusto. Diwali is celebrated in different communities in various ways. There are traditions galore. I love traditions as long as they are harmless; traditions which lead to things like black magic and stuff are no no for me! In most cases traditions, are followed blindly and without understanding why they are followed. Now with a new found liking of trying to understand many things, I am trying to understand Diwali. In my case, I grew up in a cosmopolitan area of Marine Lines, Bombay in 60’s of the last century. Yes, we did celebrate Diwali but later I came to know that it was celebrated differently in the areas like Giragaum and Dadar, these have been predominantly Maharashtrian areas! Borivali and Thane were distant places.
Diwali is celebrated as the festival of light in India. It signifies the return of Rama to his kingdom after he triumphed over Ravana. People light oil lamps and keep them outside their houses in order to show Rama the way when dark. The festival commences with Vasu Baras or Govatsa Dwadashi and cows and calves are worshiped on this day. While this day has more importance in Maharashtra and Gujarat, south India too celebrates it as Nandini Vrat. Cows and calves are fed preparations made of wheat. People who offer prayers don’t consume milk or any wheat products on this day. This tradition is an obviously old tradition of the era when the cow was Gomata and many things revolved around the cows. Celebrating them and feeding them good stuff is probably a way to say thank you to them. In olden days food used to be mainly Jowar and Bajra. On Vasu Baras cows are fed foodstuff made up of wheat, the same way humans eat puran poli made out of wheat to celebrate festivals. The video below was shot by me near my home yesterday, where it seems there was an impromptu music arrangement was done, to create an atmosphere of festivity. ( Was it a business activity in disguise?)
I think most of our festivities are a result of some events from the life of Krishna or Rama. In the same tradition, we have Naraka Chaturdashi. Naraka Chaturdashi (also known as Kali Chaudas, Roop Chaudas, Choti Diwali or Naraka Nivaran Chaturdashi) is a Hindu festival, which falls on Chaturdashi (14th day) of the Krishna Paksha in the Vikram Samvat Hindu calendar month of Ashvin. It is celebrated after Vasu Baras. The Hindu literature narrates that the asura (demon) Narakasura was killed on this day by Krishna, Satyabhama and Kali. Hence it is also referred to as Naraka-Chaturdashi. Kali Chaudas is a day to abolish laziness and evil which create hell in our life and shine the light on life.
One good thing is that the people celebrate the festivals with a lot of enthusiasm. But now they do it differently. Some families come together, some travel together. Some travel but come home on Laxmi Pujan day. Some families have Diwali gambling sessions, some have Diwali drinking sessions but people come together. A new trend has started some years back. There are early morning music festivals, starting at 6 am. The artists sing, dance and play instruments. People are modifying the way things are done but the basic theme of celebration does not change, coming together.
One very interesting development has taken place this year. Supreme Court has given a decision that crackers can be burst during a limited period between 8 and 10 pm. They have also defined the noise level allowed for the bursting! Immediately, there was a hue and cry raised that this is done only against Hindu Festivals. Hindu tradition never said that a string 10000 crackers be burst creating a real cacophony and smoke. In olden days there was no technology to manufacture “bombs” which could make humans deaf! We modify the traditions incorrectly and then fight over it as if there is a further modification suggested; but what the court has done is to bring back normalcy.
We should not be against changes or modifications. The concept will not change but the way things are done will change. When there were no motorized vehicles, we used bullock carts and horse carriages. Due to non-availability of alternate transport, people still use Camels to go from one place to another, in deserts. By all means find different ways to celebrate, find innovative ways to bring joy to this world! My dear friend Jayprakash and we have made sure that we met every year in Diwali for a long time. But this time he and Bharati have traveled to China and will spend their Diwali traveling. 排灯节快乐 Jayprakash!
Laxmi Pujan, Padwa and Bhaubeej or bhai dooj are to well known for me to add something new about them. Only thing I would say is that these are for three very important aspects in lives, Laxmi Pujan is about respecting the money, Padwa is about Husband and wife, and Bhaubeej is about brothers and sisters! Money is a practical need of the life and relations mentioned are the most important ones in our lives other than our parents.
Diyas or lamps lit are supposed to show the path to Ram and Sita to come back home after the dark period in life; the lamps also hustle the bad things or demons to go away. The crackers are burst during these days as a celebration; we do it after we win an important cricket match, too. The crackers are also burst to scare away the devil or demons. Please make sure that us humans are not affected by the loud noise.
I am sure world over, there are different traditions which are followed for thousands of years; but make sure its not done blindly. Keep them relevant for times we live in! Each individual, each family may do whatever that brings joy to them and to others. If you go to buy something in shops, wish Happy Diwali to strangers, wish Happy Diwali to shop keepers. Wish Happy Diwali to auto driver, wish happy Diwali to all the people who are working during Diwali, to make your Diwali merrier. Don’t forget that they are working during Diwali to keep us happy, make our Diwali happier! They also have their own families, they also have their spouses and children and siblings. They are going out of the way to make this occasion happier for us!
Another thing that we need to do is to redefine demons or devils or whatever you want to call them. In olden times devils were like Ravan but now the demons are modern day Ravans. But besides that there are demons like pollution, noise pollution, corruption and many such things. On the occasion of Diwali we can make resolutions like doing social work, helping out poor financially, share your professional knowledge with society, pro bono!
I read a very interesting interview in today’s newspapers. A couple of business people who sell crackers were being interviewed. A family has been running the business for last 50 years. They said this year, the cracker sale is low and they are facing resistance from their children and grandchildren regarding the selling of crackers. This younger generation is talking about noise, pollution and stuff like that. They are saying that probably the days are numbered for this businesses! I can feel that the number of crackers being burst this year are markedly less! Happy Diwali!