Today morning when returning from the swimming pool my son Pradhyum asked me a simple question – Papa, why do we celebrate festivals?
I went into philosophical mode and explained how festivals in the past were a way to include everyone in the community and the things that matter in our lives (cattle for shankranthi, colors for holi, lights for Diwali, tools for Ayudha Pooja, sharing/ giving in Ramadan, etc) and also how food was an integral part of these festivities. This ensured that the harvest of the season which was important to consume reached even those who couldn’t afford it. It also meant that people cleaned and painted their houses – so health was maintained in the community.
I went on to tell him how with time the importance of festivals evolved – like in the Mughal invasion the need to feed everyone amidst the taxes and keep people rooted to our culture to avoid coversions, to the British era where Ganesh Pandals were used to communicate patriotic messages in the local language. I lamented that these days with nuclear families people have become myopic and it’s a show of pomp and wealth than the actual meaning of what it is supposed to be. The community factor is almost gone but for very few festivals. And with the modern era people celebrate more of those festivals at home that don’t need anyone else to be involved and basically treat it as a holiday.
I was worried if I told him something wring and checked if others share my views. Below is what Sadguru has to say. Read on…
The Importance of Indian Festivals – Making Life a Celebration!
Sadhguru explains the importance of festivals in Indian culture, and how celebration can be a passageway to the most profound aspects of life.
In the Indian culture, there was a time when there used to be a festival every day of the year – 365 festivals in a year – because a festival is a tool to bring life to a state of exuberance and enthusiasm. That was the significance and importance of festivals. The whole culture was in a state of celebration. If today was ploughing day, it was a kind of celebration. Tomorrow was planting day, another kind of celebration. Day after tomorrow was weeding, that was a celebration. Harvesting, of course, is still a celebration. But in the last 400 or 500 years, poverty has come to our country, and we have not been able to celebrate every day. People are satisfied if they just get some simple food to eat. So all the festivals fell away and only 30 or 40 festivals remain. We are not even able to celebrate those now because we have to go to the office or do something else daily. So people usually celebrate only around 8 or 10 festivals annually.
Make life a celebration
Nowadays, unfortunately, a festival means they give you a holiday, and you wake up only at twelve noon. Then you eat a lot and go for a movie or watch television at home. It wasn’t like that earlier. A festival meant the whole town would gather in a place and there would be a big celebration. A festival meant we got up at four in the morning, and very actively, lots of things happened all over the house.
To bring back this culture in people, Isha celebrates four important festivals: Pongal or Makarasankranti, Mahashivarathri, Dussehra and Diwali. If we don’t create something like this, by the time the next generation comes, they will not know what a festival is. They will just eat, sleep and grow up without concern for another human being. All these aspects were brought into Indian culture just to keep a man active and enthusiastic in so many ways. The idea behind this was to make our whole life into a celebration.
The Importance of festivals
If you approach everything in a celebratory way, you learn to be non-serious about life but absolutely involved. The problem with most human beings right now is, if they think something is important, they will become dead serious about it. If they think it is not so important, they will become lax about it – they don’t show the necessary involvement. You know, in India when someone says, “He is in a very serious condition,” that means his next step is you know where. A lot of people are in a serious condition. There is only one thing that is going to happen to them which is of any significance. The rest will bypass them because with anything that they think is not serious, they are unable to show involvement and dedication towards that. That is the whole problem. The passage, the secret of life is to see everything with a non-serious eye, but be absolutely involved – like a game. That is the reason the most profound aspects of life are approached in a celebratory way, so that you don’t miss the point.