‘Thirteen festivals in twelve months’- thus goes a saying about India.
Every region, every community has its own festivals spread all over the year. There is a festival to celebrate every season and every reason. We usually differentiate and hear of political fights based on region, language etc. Amongst all these demands and fights, one silver line, one positive trend goes unnoticed. This trend is of the blurring line of caste & community differentiation when it comes to celebrating any festival. Republic day and Independence Day are National festivals which never had to do any thing with region or community. But now we can see this same spirit in many religious, community specific festivals too. Some such festivals which have cut through all caste and community are-
Christmas – Christmas is a beautiful festival spreading love and cheer all around. This simple spirit of the festival has hugged the entire country. Shops all over the country are decorated every year for Christmas with Christmas trees and stars. Almost every school now-a-days celebrate this festival, complete with Christmas tree, Santa distributing pleasantries to children, singing carols etc. Christmas has almost become a national festival for its cheerful spirit.
Diwali – Diwali is the biggest festival of India, but it is making its presence felt in other countries too due to its beauty. The beauty of lighted earthen lamps and candles on dark Amavasya night, the fun of crackers lights up every heart. When every Hindu house is decorated with lights, how can the non Hindu neighbors stay away from the happiness that this festival of light spreads?
Navratri/Durga Puja- Garba or dandiya nritya of Gujarat attracts every one. Even Pravasi Bengalis, who have their own grand Durga Puja festivities going on in full swing at the same time as navratri, cannot stop themselves from joining the dandiya dancers at least once. The Durga Puja of Bengalis too has become a common community festival in states outside West Bengal. People from all communities join in the festivities which involves both religious and cultural/artistic activities.
Karva Chauth- This is another festival which has cut across religion based communities. Even non Hindu women love to follow the rituals of Karva Chauth for the well-being of their husband. It’s a matter of love after all.
Id- Non-Muslim friends wait for the festival of Id to savor the divine tasting delicacies of the festivals, which their Muslim friends never fail to give as a token of love and friendship. Iftar parties (not the political ones) too are gaining popularity.
Holi – Holi is another big leveler.The fun and frolic of Holi brings everyone closer.
Lohri – Lohri is the festival of Punjabis. But this too has become a festival for everyone particularly in the northern region. Although Makar Sankranti, another important Hindu festival falls at the same time as Lohri, but the lure of dancing and enjoying around a bonfire in a cold January night brings out people of all communities.
Ganesh Utsav- The ten days Ganesh Puja/festival, starting from Chaturthi(4th day of moon) till Chaudas(14th day) is basically a festival of Maharashtra and maharashtrians. But people in states like MP, Gujarat, Rajasthan etc. too religiously bring home Ganesh idol on Chaturthi day, perform all the rituals and finally the visarjan on Chaudas, exactly like the maharastrians.
Sufi Basant/Basant Panchami- We all know about Basant Panchami, the festival to welcome the spring season when Goddess Saraswati is worshipped. But very few people know about Sufi Basant of the muslims. Sufi Basant is celebrated on the Basant Panchami day and it is the outcome of Basant Panchami celebrations. There is an interesting story about the origin of Sufi Basant. 12th century Chishti saint Nizamuddin Aulia was so grieved by the death of his young nephew that he withdrew himself from the world and spent time grieving at the grave. His disciple, famous poet Amir Khusro tried to cheer him in many ways but failed. One day Khusro saw ladies dressed in bright yellow, carrying marigold to offer to their God on Basant Panchami. He joined them to try & please Khwaja Nizamuddin. Seeing Khusro singing with the ladies returned the smile on Khwaja’s face. Since then Sufi Basant became a regular festival of joy, when ‘sarson(mustard flower)’& ‘Genda(marigold)’ are offered to the Khwaja at the dargah by qawwals wearing yellow bands around there forehead.
Wagah Border celebrations- The daily celebration of patriotism by the common citizens of Pakistan & India, at the Wagah Border is another testimony of the basic oneness of our hearts. The celebration on both sides of the border is exactly the same except the language.
When we talk about India & Pakistan, there is another heart warming history, about why the date 26th January was chosen as our Republic Day. Its origin is in Pakistan’s Lahore! The choice of date was made at the 1930 Lahore session of the Indian National Congress, where the Tricolor as we know it now was raised for the first time. It was decided there that January 26th would from then on be marked by all freedom fighters as ‘Purna Swaraj Day’. This was an Independence Day before the actual event.
All Festivals are about joy, cheer, and best wishes for everyone. And joy and happiness are infectious! Festivals refresh us & give a new lease of life. So when it comes to celebrations, it’s the triumph of not the politicians (show-off), but the inherent oneness of the common, simple man! The spirit of love, happiness and best wishes, of festivals brings together people from all walks of life. Basically we are all one, as humans!
“Inn lakeeron ko zameen hee pey reheney do, Dilon pey mat utarna.” - Gulzar