A very happy Diwali to all my readers and all those who I can’t directly wish so considering the vast gap that technology can still not measure up in connecting us all physically.
Diwali or Dipaballi as we all know is an Indian celebration in the month of November although the dates might alter to the nearing months of October or December considering the fact that Indian vernacular calendar is measured wrt the motion of moon and not the modern solar calendar which is most precise for purpose of civilian time measurements on our planets. That simply means celebrations such as this might alter to weeks if not months altogether. I don’t have a data centric information regarding how much Diwali alters though, in terms of a Julian Calendar.
Thankfully much of our important transactions are based on the sun based calculations which means, in modern times, a great deal of corrections would be coming from the sidereal constants of motion. A sidereal constant of motion refers to having to fix all references wrt to distant stars so that fluctuations coming from sun or Intra-solar objects such as planetary perturbations itself can be properly accounted for.
Now coming back onto the idea of Diwali I am not going to delve into how much we want to signify it as a victory of morality over evil, and how much myth is important in our philosophical and existential moorings. A monster by the name of Holika — gender specifically the feminine form of evil was killed by Vishnu, although that signifies the celebration of Holi. and not Diwali. — There is some confusion regarding Holika being Putana and not killed by Vishnu but his incarnation or avatar Sri Kriushna. But at the time I will not delve deeper to put these mythical constructs into their safer understanding.
I never like to take exceptions to how much vilification outdated traditions of our heritage and culture entails, and robustly establishes into a modern and civic society, which aims to be progressive and free from malice at the same time. The reason is I never see much intellectual debates that are free from wishful thinking and hypocrisy on one extreme and blindfolded adherence and a ready to die or kill attitude of the right wing inclinations in support of the veracity and usefulness of such traditional ‘wisdom’ and folklore.
Most of Indian modern debates in our beloved democracy centers about the perceived negativeness or the focused on the negative yet hypocritical accounts of these myths. These are often just bipolar arguments which takes up most of our interests or even capabilities. I would much rather like to take a neutral and objective analysis of such wisdom while totally keeping myself away from the bipolar tendencies. This is in general true about much of Indian political discourses as well. we just seem to be incapable of breaking away from these bipolar inclinations. We either foolhardily support the traditions and support bigotry and aggressively nationalistic and religious overtones or become admirers of completely cynical and hypocritical and self serving stances.
Its rather more attractive for me to be able to enjoy the traditions, to be fun centric and taking such opportunities to bring some peace and harmony into our lives while at the same time rejecting the overtures our careless and often derisively and dangerously outward expressions of culture supremacy brings in. So I will just give couple of example of what I greatly like about this festival and what I really don’t like about it.
We often like to describe the festival of Diwali as a festival of light. I would rather shed some light therefore on this seemingly glorious yet hypocritical view point. First off if Diwali was simply about being a light festival we would be happy that we have light from sun 365 days of the year. While we are safe from the nuclear fire monster that sun is which we also proclaim to be a God, because we are not facing the fallout of such a situation nor we ever realized so until only a century ago at most.
Also the whole adage of festival of light is a misnomer if we realize its become at-least in modern times a festival of light, fire and gun powder. Isn’t it? The most important aspect of Diwali indeed has become the gun powder culture. We have produced and licensed in the name of culture a significantly dangerous regime of gun powder.
In today’s time or at-least as I have observed in the last 3 decades nobody is willing to celebrate a Diwali that is devoid of the gun powder. While fire is significantly dangerous if not tamed carefully, just having light or fire from earthen oil pots as we have been celebrating since time immemorial would be a great boon for a fun loving and yet unprepared for emergencies arising from fire and gun powder country like India.
Yesterday 3 folks went to drink in a bar. In the capital city of Bhubaneswar. They were already in a mood for celebrating Diwali. So they brought a relatively dangerous fire cracker called Kumpi. After drinking they handed the kumpies to the staff of the bar. Or as it goes, one of them lit a kumpi and threw it so that it bursts and produces the desired explosion. Thats what we call fun in India, forgetting the devastating account that trails from such a fun. Exactly that happened. The kumpi fell on couple of generators which were perhaps in operation as there was a power outage. A huge blast occurred, and 3 lives were lost with several injured. Yes; the manager of the bar and two of its staffs died while several that were injured included two of those who had brought the fire crackers. Even one day before the celebration — of death?
This is one of the headlines of today’s news paper. We have been reading such nonsense since several decades. Some one lost a finger. Someone lost life or eye sight.
While taking a ride back on a scooty today evening, on the main road of my home town I see these popular Dipaballi actions. Young folks putting dangerous crackers on the edge of the road and lighting. What if it actually affects someone on the road? On a city where literally 1000s of vehicles are moving on the road every minute. Can this stupidity be stopped ? Or we are just a unprepared nation, as unprepared as we could ever be?
I know people also try to put firecrackers on the posterior of dogs. As unkind as we can ever become. The action of bursting firecrackers in the public, without any eyebrows raised is our true culture. Its a culture of gunpowder and not of light. Where are the candle lights and earthen oil pots? Of course they are there. But why the crackers in public?
When someone says festival of light immediately 3 festivals of light come to my mind.
- Hanukkah — the festival of light of the Jews.
- Hanabi — literally the flower lights of Japanese people. That I have witnessed and celebrated for years, while I was a resident in the country for 5 years.
- Diwali — the Indian and often termed Hindu festival of light, something close to home and heart.
Now there is something that we must learn from the modern countries.
They do not allow any individual to start a small fire in the public, whether its for a rite in the name of a holy ordain of society or not. Its illegal. Only government licensed people can start public fire even when its for the purpose of a temple. In countries which are prepared educated and greatly civil bursting a firecracker isn’t allowed to the individual. Its not fun, its just unsafe.
Then also hanabi can kick the ass of Diwali any-day, in terms of how much sense of light and fun it brings. Don’t like this fact but be informed, hanabi is just like Diwali sans no individual has the legal right to burst fire crackers. Its a licensed private or public agent who can do so, as far as I know. two people take all the paraphernalia needed for the fire shows in their vehicle. The community gathers around designated areas in tens of thousands, merry making eating and having fun watching spectacular shows of shooting fire works to the sky that simply makes amazing works of flower and other sorts of light show, making very low sound and not at all unsafe. Again license is in the hand of a few experts. Its far more enjoyable than what I have ever enjoyed from Dipaballi. No question of safety is contravened in that celebration. Celebration is over after a designated time.
In India during Diwali times for months altogether after the celebration individuals continue to crack fire crackers err small bombs on their controlled corners of the city and public spaces.
I am elated more by the idea of hanabi than Diwali although in my heart I love Diwali. Time to bring some much needed changes in how and why we want to celebrate. It will save lives and bring more harmony into our public and private lives.
Again happy Diwali to all. But lets remember; A modern country is one where tradition and celebration is blended well with safety and sanity.