Mango Man

Do We Really Need These Many Festivals?

Dr. Praveen Gangangoudar for BeyondHeadlines

Few months back I was travelling from one of the district of Bihar to Patna for official purpose. One the way many places there was heavy traffic jams due to people were carrying Ma Kali’s Murthi for the “Chhat” puja purpose. The travel which should have taken 3 hours otherwise took more than 6 hours for me to reach the destination. Just started thinking do we need all these festivals or to put it more in perspective do we need to celebrate all these festivals so pompously and with such expensive and striking/glaringpublic display?

My points:

  1. If you see carefully Hindu calendar has at least one major festival every two months. Then there are important holidays which are celebrated regionally like Pongal in South India or Chhat in Bihar to Kali puja in Kolakata. This in addition to the pan Indian festivals like Diwali and Dashahara. Then there are some festivals which are started recently at local level but now they have attained the pan Indian spread like Ganesh festival. Obviously a public holiday is declared for these holidays and government and semi government and in many states even private establishments are supposed to give holidays for these festivals. Irony is India is mixed cultured (secular in political language) country and usually people celebrate festivals pertaining to their own religion. But all the people do not belonging to those religions are also forced to have public holiday. So Hindus get holiday on Eid as Muslims get holiday on Diwali not to forget they both get holiday on Christamus. (I have had holiday even on Kanakadasa Janyanthi in Karnataka: Not undermining the value of Kanakdasa or demeaning to him, but obviously at least I don’t know who was he or what he did for society, may be it is my ignorance and fault: But again honestly how many of people know about him anyways?) So net result is loss of so many working days resulting in loss of revenues and delaying of important decisions. The point I am trying to drive home is we have too many festivals and public holidays end up losing working days.
  1. My second contention is the way these festivals are celebrated. Having grown up in Maharashtra I have seen the richness and the extravagance of Ganesh festival celebrated by different Public ‘Ganesh Mandals’ there. Their budget for Ganesh celebration goes anything between 100k to many crores. And what do they do with this pompous and extravagant celebration only they burn money in excessive lighting, excessive sound pollution, heavy electricity expenses and amazing immersion processions. Are there any examples of utilizing this money for any good social purpose, there are but if you count they may be less than 0.1% of total Ganesh Mandals that are registered in India. Do they collect money by voluntary donations? You are kidding! I have been stopped innumerable times travelling for demand of “Ganesh Vargani” (donation in local language) forcibly and amount decided by these local goons is directly proportional to size of Vehicle. Same stands true for “Chhat” celebration donations, Kali puja donations and so on. Do they spend this money on good cause, at least legal activities? Again the answer is negative. You will find many “Karyakartas” dancing in state of alcoholic delirium in front of pendal, in the procession of immersion etc. So is the way we want to celebrate these festivals? Money collected by hurting, abusing somebody forcibly, spent on extravagant electric and firework, on booze of the members and we think god will be happy with these celebrations?
  1. I don’t hint at stopping celebrating these festivals. I don’t have that authority, intent or reach. I am just saying that Religion is deep personal matter of faith for every individual and any public display (worse at least such vulgar and pervert display) should be forbidden. Every individual has right to celebrate the religion and festival which should be very personal and without causing any public nuisance. Much less the public expense of national resources like electricity, creating traffic jams and causing sound pollution. It should be made compulsory to spend major portion of the money collected by donations (the rightful voluntary donations) on the public cause. By these means it is also possible to curb the menace of the threatening competition between different public celebration groups, crime happening because of that.
  1. I believe this is high time Government to acknowledge this monster of the public celebrations of festivals and curb it in time. We all are witnessing the fact that Ganesha festival which was once only Mumbai and Pune festival now has reached every nooks are corner of the country with all its hazards stated above. Same thing happening with “Kali Pujo”. Some of these festivals were stated as the means of public mobilization activities for the struggle of Independence. Now it has changed its nature to means of forcible money extortion, gambling, criminal and illegal activities with money collected and wastage of national resources. These public celebrations have become the unlawful means of display of power and force of many criminals and criminal syndicates. This has also become the means of mobilization of the like-minded criminals and it acts as the platform for baptism of crime for many new entrants into crime world. We all should stop it. And please a request to the right wing that this is not an effort to dilute the Hindu/or Muslim or for that matter any religion’s right to celebrate their faith with enthusiasm. Just we need to be more conscious in celebration and see that are we giving platform to crime and criminals by public display of these celebrations?

(Author is MBBS Doctor and Regional CBQA Manager in Futures Group International)

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