Celebration of Indian festivals
By Dr Surendra Singh Pokharna
Recently Makar Sakranti was celebrated throughout the country, which is day on which there is a transition of Sun to Makar rashi. It also coincides with the harvest season. Lakhs of people takes bath early in the morning under severe cold in rivers all over the country. Similarly people visits temples and worship deities. They also feed poor people and animals. People do fast and also arrange feast from harvest cut during this time. In many parts of the country, people fly kites to enjoy the Sun, atmosphere and their dynamic interplay with human psychology. Before this festival, Chhat Puja was celebrated in many parts of the country. Earlier Karva Chouth was celebrated and still before that, Sharad Purnima was celebrated. These festivals are celebrated to worship some Gods and Goddesses and have tremendous social and religious importance. Several stories are also connected with these festivals.
Chhat Puja, which is celebrated on sixth day of Shukla Paksh of Kartik month, is actually celebrated for four days. People do fast and worship Maa Chhat, Bhagwan Surya (Sun) and water in rivers, ponds and Sea etc. In these pujas, people offer water (aragha), fruit, coconut, flowers, lemon, plant of haldi, pirikiya and kand-mul to Sun and rivers in the evening. Prasad is then distributed and it is again used to worship the rising Sun next day. It appears that through this process, the rising and setting of Sun are both recognised and their importance is realised. We all know that Sun is a source of energy and is very critical for maintaining life support system on the Earth and it maintains three seasons in a year and a good temperature range throughout the year. It also helps in maintaining a good balance of gases in the atmosphere and is very crucial for agricultural production. Not only this, many of the periodic processes known as biological cycles in human bodies or circadian rhythms are directly related with movement of the Sun, like day, nights, working and sleeping hours etc. Since several of these cyclic processes are very critical to the life supporting system, worshipping of Sun is really justified. In addition, the interdependence of various natural systems is also recognised that is Sun system, water bodies, agricultural system (due of involvement of offering food and fruit etc) and the human systems.
On Chhat Puja, people put just one single cloth on their body, this appears to be symbolic realisation to recognise oneness in Nature that is to treat the whole Nature as one single system without any partition.
Similarly Sharad Purnima is celebrated in the month of Aashad. Here the relation of human beings is recognised with Moon, the another important planet in our system which strongly affects Earth through tides and the human psychology via lunar cycles. During Sharad Purnima, atmosphere becomes cool as it is beginning of winter, people worship Lakshmi and keep fast for the whole day and eat kheer and puri at night and enjoy the beauty of Nature through music and other cultural activities. Lastly, Karva Chouth is celebrated on fourth day of Krishna Paksh of Kartik. On this day, women observe fast from Sun rise to Moon rise and wish for the welfare of their husbands. They take food only after watching the Moon. In these two cases, human psychology is directly linked with the movement of the Moon. Again a very strong interdependence is recognised among human behaviour, psychology, sociology, food, family stability and Moon. One again observes realisation of interdependence of astronomical events with water systems, atmospheric system, agricultural system, human systems, and animal kingdom. Thus through these festivals, one recognises a grand interconnectivity among various components of mother nature.
On many of these festivals, crores of people take bath in rivers. This could be interpreted as one’s merging with Nature, by completely forgetting oneself and one’s ego. It could also mean collective realisation and feeling of possession of rivers and ponds by the society and not some individuals, groups, states or governments. This should be compared with a modern view of people who have developed a mentality where there is more emphasis on “I”, “my ego”, “my chair”, “my house”, my company”, my family”, “my car”, “my country” etc. Nobody says this is our environment or this is our river and so on. However, the concept of collective possession is clearly reflected when there is massive involvement of lakhs of people jointly taking bath and collectively doing joint pujas etc. When several developed countries are not agreeing upon cutting emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, it is due to non-realisation of this collective responsibility and interdependence of the world, which was recognised thousands of years ago by our ancestors. If people celebrate these festivals by taking bath in rivers and ponds on these festivals then they would not spoil water or air, so the process of maintaining purity of atmosphere, rivers and ponds will be automatically guaranteed, without spending any money at all.
All these festivals involve fast, that is a process of making oneself pure from heart and mind so as to minimise the effect of lust, deceit, anger, jealousy, revengefulness, ego and others weaknesses of people. To eat food after offering the food to Nature, means that one should first return/offer food and fruit back to the life supporting system, so as to further strengthen it. Offering is therefore given higher priority over eating. These practices and feelings behind them therefore implies an urge for continuation of life processes through a very broad minded thinking. The process of offering good things back to Nature should be compared with the modern habits of the current people, who are giving only polluted things and items to the rivers and water by releasing industrial waste in rivers, hydrocarbons through vehicles in air and water, throwing nuclear waste and other type of wastes in seas and oceans in the mad race of competition and a wrong concept of development popularised by the western world. Again if we compare the mental state of current people with the mental state obtained after doing fasts, we can easily realise that if our mind is polluted then our concern for Nature and the life support system will be less and if our minds and hearts are pure and clean then we shall be more closed to Nature and hence we shall have more concern for them.
This perception of Nature to recognise this interconnectivity and the resulting interdependence of these phenomena and systems could provide a new way and new perception of looking at Nature and our surrounding, which could provide new insights towards the current problems of human beings and the environment. This point of view is urgently required in these days, when modern science due to its intrinsic nature of compartmentalisation, reductionism and passivism has badly distorted this concept of grand interconnectivity of our world.
Concept of spiritual development as enunciated in Indian system of thought, on the other hand, results into these healthy conventions and festivals where a grand integration is visualised among astronomical objects, water systems, climatological systems, agricultural systems, animal systems and human systems etc. Through traditions and conventions followed during these festivals, we are strengthening the life support system by returning good things back to Nature. It is high time if we are serious about our own future and future of our children and grand children then we must take strong action immediately and bring back the glory and wisdom associated with these festivals and propagate to the whole world which is looking for better ideas to solve the problem of environment. Particularly when our friends from the Western world are not ready to make any sacrifice to reduce generation of pollution and reduction of consumerism, such ideas and conventions can change their hearts as well as mind.
If we want to solve these problems then more and more such festivals should be celebrated at more regular intervals. Then there will be a real mass awakening of the people towards environment and realisation of the grand interdependence of various components in Nature. Can there be better example of realisation of interconnectedness of systems on such a large scale? One must bow one’s head to great rishies and munies and other persons of this country who invented these festivals.
(The writer is former scientist, ISRO and can be contacted at [email protected])