I grew up in a country where celebration and festivities were part and parcel of almost everyday life. Every month seemed to have something happening in the locality, no matter which religion celebrated it or which book described the mythological existence behind the celebrations. What mattered were the sweets, the crackers, the new clothes and above all the togetherness.
Be it applying colours on Holi or burning Raavan effigies during Dussehra or performing Garbha or going around singing Christmas carols dressed up as Santa Claus or fighting for ghee rice and mutton biriyani during Eid, life was fun and gay.
Nobody asked for identity verification, caste details or political leanings during the festivities. What mattered was sharing of the happiness and celebration of brotherhood. It was a chance to forget differences, bond over delicacies and raise a toast to the victory of good over evil.
Yes, the victory of good over evil is the underlying theme of all festivals, be it Dussehra, Deepavali, Holi, Christmas, Muharram, Easter or Ramzan. It all calls for compassion, universal brotherhood, tolerance and spreading of joy. The same is true with regional festivals too– Pongal, Onam, Makar Sankranti etc.
I have enjoyed visiting the many pandals during Durga Pooja and Ganesh Chaturthi the same way I like watching the sparkling Christmas trees. I like Santa Claus the same way I like reading Ramayana and Mahabharata stories.
India is probably the country that celebrates the largest number of festivals. These festivals have been the golden threads that hold this diverse chunk of land and population together. Trying to twist or cut some of these threads will destroy the entire fabric – social and economic – of this nation, carefully crafted since time immemorial.
This is not the first time that the right-wing activists have tried to curtail the celebration of certain festivals (I wouldn’t want to call it festivals of minority religion because people of all walks of life join in the celebrations) by revoking the ritual holiday given and imposing other duties/functions. There is an attempt to replace the original significance of these days with a new one that suits that agenda of the certain political parties and outfits.
Schools and college have been places were all festivals have been celebrated with equal mirth and gay. It is unfortunate that some schools in MP were forbidden to have Christmas Celebrations with ‘Santa Claus’ distributing gifts. It is sad to note the ministry asking for good governance day observation compliance reports from these institutes. It is also sad to note the interference of the ministry in the affairs of technical institutes for higher studies asking for their compliance in observation of such days.
Trying to divide India on communal lines and polarize societies will not just create social tensions but will also backfire in the government’s attempt to spur economic growth. Because the economy is not composed of just one religion, region or caste but of a heterogeneous set of people who participate in production and consumption activities that drive the economy. These festivals also add to the country’s domestic conception. Festival seasons are times when retailers, car manufacturers, textile shops and others see a surge in their revenues as the population is happy and willing to loosen their purses.
A stalwart politician, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s contribution to India is immense and valuable. But I’m sure this moderate politician would not like his name or birthday to be a matter of controversy like this. Good governance should not merely remain a day to be observed but should be a way of life.
Creating jobs, building dams and roads, providing 24/7 electricity etc. are all development; but good governance also covers those decisions that will ensure peace, harmony and well-being without hurting sentiments of different segments of the population.
You need to be able to first live freely and without fear to be able to create wealth and participate actively in the economic processes.
By: Gitanjali Maria