Saturday, October 16, 2010

Navratri........My Search for Meaning

Dasara or Dushera is a major Indian festival and is the culmination of and follows a period of nine days preceding it. This day is also known as Vijayadashmi, the tenth day - a day of victory. It is celebrated in most parts of India.

In a large country as ours and with diverse cultures co-existing, it is but natural that there will be varying interpretations. This is often seen in different themes that seem prominent in each region.

To me, a product of post independence India, and, moulded in the liberal school of thought, this was a dilemma of sorts. What is this festival? What is its significance?  

I found that most of us had no clue about the deeper meaning. It was identified as an event that happened in hoary times...destruction of the demon Mahisasura by Goddess Kali or the defeat of Ravana at the hands of Lord Rama. At some places it was identified as worshipping the feminine aspect of the divine and thus Goddess Durga was worshipped for the first three days, Goddess Laxmi for the next three and Goddess Saraswati for the last three days. The "Devi Kavach" honours the nine forms of the Goddess.

Come west to the state of Gujarat, and Garba takes centre stage. I do not refer to the modern day dancing to film and pop music. Traditionally, Garba form of dance was a worship of the Devi-Shakti, and the earthern pot with with a "diya" lit inside represented the womb and fertlity.

I felt these linkages seem symbolic and a message is being conveyed or these indicate that it is time to introspect, review and change.

In my next post, I hope to share with you all how I understood the significance of Navratri and what it really meant.

Monday, October 4, 2010

An Attempt at Self Destruction

Much has been said about what has been done or what has not been done for Commonwealth Games - 2010. This has been dissected in great detail and the potrayals have been overly negative.

Our "free" and often "irresponsible" media went berserk and every invective in the dictionary was hurled at the organisers and the Games. Some even went to the extent of criticising the decision to accept these Games in the first place. There were veiled suggestions that we bribed many nations to get the Games awarded to India.

The hype was so great that the foreign press just had to add their bit and the impressions were of a disaster waiting to happen. Many athletes probably dropped out reading this stuff.

One minister Mr. Mani Shankar Iyer went to the extent of calling this a colonial relic and a waste of money. Every attempt made was to scuttle the whole event from taking place. An open and blatant attempt at self-destruction. 

I am sure the then NDA government never imagined that we would live to see a day like this, when they went all out to get the Games to India. 

It was an effort to project to the world about a young and modern India, a resurgent and confident India, an emerging heavy weight in the world hierarchy. It was also an exercise that would have inspired us Indians to excel in our pursuits and break those limiting shackles that time and our weak minds have imposed on ourselves. An opportunity to mobilise all Indians to come together and create something outstanding.

We were ready to 
junk our image to mud. 
believe that all these efforts are way beyond us. 
believe that we did not deserve the glory that is rightly ours.

It would have been tragic if all these had come true. What surprises me is inspite of our manifold strengths, we repeatedly fall into that same trap and believe that we are so fallible. 

The inaugural extravaganza was stunning and I was definitely very impressed with the effort. Coming on the back of very low expectations, the impact may have been higher. This, however, does not dilute any credit  that the programme deserves. I am sure the rest of the Games would stick to high standards.

I remember Swami Vivekananda's words and wonder what the result would have been had we remembered his words:

"Man has infinite power within himself, and he can realise it. Arise, awake,sleep no more;within each of you there is the power............"

"March on! Anything that makes you weak physically, intellectually and spiritually, reject as poison"

Let these words inspire us to our best and not our media and TV channels who happen to believe only in our worst.