13. Allied to this topic, two more queries crop up. First Why and
how should we observe the festivals?
Celebration of festivals and sacred days is a common phenomenon
found in all religions. The common masses, though they
may gain some knowledge through philosophy, and wisdom through
mythology, are not satisfied at heart unless they can perform some
rites and rituals associated with religion. Celebration of festivals
and sacred days affords them such opportunities. Performing these
will give them peace and joy. At the social level, greater unity and
co operation are achieved. Also, festivals help in the dissemination
of religion and culture.
On such days one is expected to devote
more time for prayer and spiritual pursuits than on other days.
Partaking of a feast on such days is actually symbolic of the
spiritual feast we are expected to reap. So, observing festivals and
sacred days through feasts only, forgetting the spirit behind them,
is only a mockery of religion. This is how a holy day is often
reduced to a holiday! These festivals could be the
birthdays of our great spiritual and religious leaders like
Ramanavami or important milestones in the history of our religion
and culture (like Gitajayanti). They could also be occasions
of thanks giving to Mother Nature (like Makara Sankranti).
Then there are other festivals like
Dipavali or Durgotsava which have mythological origins. Good days in
one's own life (like a birthday) might also be occasions of such
rejoicing. However, on all such days, one is expected to
observe fasting, self control, worship of the family deity,
honouring the elders and, taking their blessings. Partaking
of the feast along with relatives and friends, visiting their homes
and exchanging presents, which are the usual things that
happen on such days, may follow, but not substitute, austerity and
During the Dusserah season,
Ramlila and Durgapuja are celebrated in North India with great
eclat. So does South India celebrate Ganesha Chaturthi. Holi is a
common festival observed in all parts of the country. However, it is
highly regrettable that, of late, in these festivals, the religious
and spiritual favour
has declined steeply, giving rise to indecent
and violent activities. It is high time that our society wakes up to
these aberrations, takes. effective steps to eradicate them and
restores our festivals to their pristine and solemn glory.