Today is dusshera, the 10th day of what is surely India’s longest festival and arguably the most fun of them all. As with all Indian festivals, there are many legends underpinning the “why” for the festival – the most popular being the slaying of Ravana, the 10 headed demon by Ram, India’s most gentlemanly god – ever.
But this is not a post about all of that. For its not the “whys” that make this festival so poplar, it’s the “hows” of celebration that make it so. Consider for instance:
In South India, women folk and children get together, evolve intricate doll houses and display them eagerly to their neighbours. They swap recipes (and some good local gossip we suspect!), extend their artistic skills to everything around the house – and generally have a darn-good-time. Child-like creativity abounds – and soap operas and pressing family concerns take a back seat for once. Its so good – the Harvard innovation gurus’ would do well to visit and take notes on innovation!
In Gujarat, the dandidya raas – a supreme dance takes over the entire state. For once teenage daughters can look their mom in the eye and let them know that they are going dancing with the neighbourhood hunks (all in aid of prayers and goodwill for the family of course!) and the mom nods her assent and smiles wistfully as remembers her childhood dandiya escapades. And if she’s sporting enough, she decides to joins the dance too – and with gusto the family teach their young ones a thing or too about being cool!
Kolkata – the home of Durga and kali – worships the goddesses fervently – and the whole state is transformed with colour, sweets (remember the famous Bengali sweets?) and a gumption that can only be experienced. Politics, Society’s strains and such go on holiday for this period as human goodness, joy and celebration taking centre-stage.
And so on it goes everywhere…….The Mysore palace is decked in finery as are other momnuments…. ….. India powders her face, adds a touch of makeup and lets her hair down and everyone who has the good fortune to see her stands awed –such majesty, such colour – and such fun.
And if you have been reading closely, you would have noticed stress on the feminine part through the writeup – for this festival is truly a celebration of the feminine. And for those who have placed even more closer inspection and say but isn’t it celebrated for a male God (Ram) – we answer “not entirely ” – there is an equally popular legend on the celebrations being in honour of the Godess killing a ferocious demon – and the celebrations honor the feminine in all its aspects (keep reading for some explanation from revered sages on this).
So truly, here’s a celebration for the goddesses, with women leading the celebrations and artistry, creativity and genius unleashed like never before. And when you consider that this is the longest celebration – one imagines the ancients had kind of got the society’s priorities right..
The intellectuals are sifting in their seats: “ok – we got it – everyone’s having a gala good time, but why are we celebrating it – don’t we need a good reason?”
So we sigh, and move on – it was too good to last anyway huh…..
First up are the legends – and there are many, here are a few that will help satiate one’s curiosity for a few hours.
But do festivals or rituals really need a reason? “Rituals by definition are irrational…and they exist in a context” argues Devdutt pattanaik, India’s leading mythologist. . “Rituals exist in a context. People outside the context will never understand it. Those who are in it, follow it, experience it and are thus recipients of subliminal communications. I often see foreigners wondering why Hindus worship trees. This is genuine curiosity as they are from another context and find this behavior strange. When Indians travel abroad and watch men and women kissing each other passionately in public, they will find it equally strange.”
The intellectuals are still not satisfied I see – and if I am not coming up with something soon, this post will be relegated to the “good tries” section too…. So I do some swift thinking and get a couple of links that do great justice to the “why”.
First up, no one can beat Wikipedia on listing the legends involved!
Here’s a very insightful post by Jaggi Vasudev, the Sadguru from Isha foundation – where he explains how one can gain either or physical strength, material abundance or knowledge from participating in this festival. Indeed he says, for the discriminating few – you could also transcend all of these and experience something even more beyond…..
And a couple from Sri Sri Ravishankar from the ArtOfLiving Blog, where he digs into the etymology and comes up with some more insights. Paramount among them is the association with the number 9 – and no we are not talking about the Brazilian striker Ronaldo’s jersey number here!
So that’s enough for the intellectuals, but the self help aficionados are still not happy. “We’ve got to learn something from the event, else its time wasted”, they protest. So a quick visit to Wikipedia reveals that dusshera means dasha (10) hara (kill) or killing ten negative qualities. And if you are wondering which qualities you need to kill, here is the list (again from the ever helpful Wikipedia):
1. Kama vasana (Lust)
2. Krodha (Anger)
3. Moha (Attachment)
4. Lobha (Greed)
5. Mada (Over Pride)
6. Matsara (Jealousy)
7. Swartha (Selfishness)
8. Anyaaya (Injustice)
9. Amanavta (Cruelty)
10. Ahankara (Ego).
Speaking of which – I know you are wondering if you eliminated these ten from your lives – what would you do with life – would it be worth it?!!!
Don’t ask me – ask quora.com – or better still why not try eliminating them this year and reporting the results in time for next year’s festivities?!!