I love the festive season. The dressing up, friends meeting up, food, dance, colors.. everything! Just the reason to celebrate life. Luckily for us, with so many Gods and Goddesses to bless and revere, we find multiple festivals to celebrate. My little one looks forward to the festivals too. It started with the excitement of Ganesh Chaturthi, which we celebrated for the first time at home. She was unhappy to say goodbye to her Ganesha, but got over it eventually. As we moved into October, we were already in the throes of the next set of festivals, one of my favorite – Durga Puja or Dusshera, which will be followed by Diwali in the subsequent month. I enjoy the entire affair; we plan for weeks our dresses and our accessories. Our social calendars are full and all other activities are scheduled around the festival event dates (including flu vaccinations and other doctor visits). Not to forget ensuring ample memory storage in the phone to allow videos and photographs. The only thing missing in this merry making, are our families and extended family. But we try and make an effort to still go out by ourselves and enjoy and celebrate. We owe this to our kid.
My daughter shares the same enthusiasm as me in these matters. She tells her friends and teachers at school about all the festivities and about us dolling up and dancing at the temple. I was telling my daughter’s teacher about Dusshera and Diwali and informed her how it was the equivalent of Christmas for us. As I was explaining the religious significance of the festivals, I realized the same festival is celebrated in different ways and for different reasons across India. The festival remains the same, although it may be known by different names and often stories and the people involved seemed different too. For example, Diwali in north India, signifies celebration of homecoming of Sita, Ram and Laxman from their exile after defeating Ravana, whereas in the south, it marked the defeat of the demon Narakasura by Krishna. Both Ram and Krishna happened to be the manifestations of the same diety, i.e. Vishnu. The underlying beliefs and principles in both the narratives are same. Diwali is also associated with Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, who happens to be the wife of Vishnu.
I am not an expert on religion. Neither do I know all the customs and rituals thoroughly. Most of my information is what I had assimilated since childhood, through stories often narrated by my grand moms, conversations during festivals and popular literature. While growing up, I used to get confused with the various versions (of festivals and Gods) available and when I raised questions, my parents told me all versions were correct and the main point of these festivals was to remember that good triumphed over evil and we celebrate the goodness around us and spread joy. To my simple mind, this answer seemed the most accurate. My daughter has slowly started showing interest in Hindu mythology and culture and while we introduce her to our culture, we are trying to keep her open minded and receptive to all cultures around us. It’s a fine balance to be proud of one’s heritage and also be respectful towards others’ cultures.
Last night on our way back home from all the dancing at the temple in our fancy lehengas, my daughter was looking at all the yard decorations for Halloween and commented we needed more decorations in our yard and need to up our game. October is a busy month, after all the garba and dandiya and dhunuchi naach, we have to get ready for Halloween and our Minnie Mouse will go out and celebrate that too with the same gusto!