The issue of fire crackers and Elephants are part of a very deep and fundamental problem we are facing. When our brain is affected with tumour, many are trying to give a medicine for headache. Of course, we need modern and scientific techniques to do festivities, fire crackers and elephant processions. But what is the reason behind the disproportionate increase of festivities & spending of crores seeing fire in the sky?
Every religion, every culture has its own festivals. Festivals are great occasions of human bonding, happiness and conveying of an in depth philosophy behind the festival. It is the philosophy we are missing. Many will be surprised to know that, in past few years, one statistic that came out in the papers point out that more than 200 crore were spent on fire crackers and elephants.
As a devotee, Elephant procession is my right, bursting fire crackers are my right. But should we also divert some of the fund spend for festivities to charity too, or creating awareness regarding Sanatana Dharma or Yoga.
Let me give me an insider’s view of how Temple Management Committees’ thinking works. I have been a part of many. A new committee takes over, they say “last year’s committee brought 10 elephants and 10 lakhs worth of fire crackers, our target should be 20 elephants and 20 lakh worth fire crackers” and the next committee increases the bar. It also has an effect on the temples nearby. Their committee says, “See, the other temples spend around a 20 lakh, this year, our sponsorship target should go higher and we should do more than the ‘other’”.
The only way a Temple communicates to people, talk to the society has been reduced to festivities. Our entire Temple communication mechanism has been bursting crackers, high volume festivities, and elephants. These are all nice, but should not there be a balance? A balance of Celebration and Charity, a balance of festivity and philosophy. This is an occasion we should take good inspiration from our brothers of other communities. Hindus have a lot of great positive things which can inspire others, in the same way, we also can learn and imbibe good things from others too. Society is a space where there is give and take.
The socio spiritual education system of Hindus are not that successful. They don’t have a system where they can be taught Yoga, Ayurveda insights, Gita or Vivekananda. Just like our Christian brothers have a Sunday and our Muslim brothers have a Friday for their socio spiritual gathering, we should also have an hour in a day in a week, where we can come together, connect with each other and have charity towards society.
This oen hour in a week can be spent for Bhajan, Yog, Geet. We don’t have such an hour in a week. This is resulting in lack of socio spiritual education among Hindus and leading to their downfall. for eg: Hindus are around 50 per cent of Kerala’s population , but around 80 per cent of suicides, 84 per cent of divorces, 83.7 per cent of alcoholism, a huge percentage of depression (precise statistics not available as per community), old age lack of care issues… all social issues are among Hindus.
On an average, the kid of our Muslim brother and Christian Brother, when they reach 18 years, they have around 500-800 hours of spiritual education. But a Hindu kid hardly gets around 50 – 80 hours. This results in a lack of development of spiritual quotient among Hindus. Lack of exposure to community bonding and spiritual awareness hinders the growth of Spiritual quotient, emotional quotient and Hindus are generally less rooted.
The funds that should be spent for such social and welfare activities are right now not kept. They are entirely spent for festivities. It is high time, we should think about allocating such funds to these social welfare measures. The right approach is to say “as a Hindu, it is my right to have such celebrations, but it is my responsibility to divert some funds to charity too” and “as a devotee, it is duty towards Hindus and my land, that we all find a solution to the social problems we are facing.” As Hindus, don’t have a vertical command and control system, it is easy for anyone to introduce any “achara” or practise and suddenly make it an enduring custom. For eg: till 2011 in Sabarimala, on Jan 14 Makara Jyothi / Makara Vilakku, there was no practise of fireworks. Some one started bursting fire crackers and now it is done on large scale. Without hurting our devotees who are doing this, we are slowly persuading to cut down this practice.
No law or institution can ban festivals. No one can ban elephants or fire crackers. A ban of this kind never works and it only has counterproductive effects. What we need is awareness & an action plan. A vision, an action plan where there is great space for festivals and also social welfare measures. A long with that we can think of modernising our festivals by introducing most modern pyro technics and scientific conduction of such fireworks. Such techniques are used all around the world. Our festivals are our pride and it forms a core identity of who are we? But let us not limit ourselves by reducing our festivals to a pompous display of fireworks. The real journey is towards having Fire inside the sky of our mind and light in the soul.
(The writer is an author, activist and grandson of Kandararu Maheshwararu, senior supreme priest of Sabarimala)