One festival. One country. Different legends. Different states. Diwali. The festival of lights.
While elsewhere in the country, Diwali is celebrated by welcoming the goddess of wealth and celebrating Lord’s Rama’s home coming after winning the battle in Lanka, Diwali has many legends attached to it.
I have my reservations attached to some of the legends as Ramayana portrayed Sita-a woman who was considered an epitome of sacrifice. If you look at mythology, the role of woman is shown as a giver, nurturer. These are then re-instated in our society and become norms, values and our beliefs. A good woman is one who sacrifices. So in other words, a bad woman is one who lives her life according to her own whim?
I am not questioning the Ramayana, but I have a problem with the way women are portrayed in it.
Look at it in today’s day and time. You live far away from your husband for 14 years. You yearn to come back to him. He even fights to get you back. When you are back, he leaves you because a dhobi says the woman is having an affair. You sacrifice and have to go through tests to prove your worth. Why? You have two children who are abandoned by your husband.
I am sure mythology and the legend will have some answers attached to it. But I also feel, these things should be spoken about much more.
In some parts of the world Ravana is worshiped for his knowledge, and people say he never touched Sita without her consent even when he had abducted her.
Again, I am not against festivals, religion or mythology. It is just another point of view and I love contemplating on different point of views. Sita Sings the Blues, is a movie, talks about one such contrasting view. There is also A.K Ramanuja’s essay Three Hundred Ramayanas which the Delhi University deemed unfit for its students. These too give a different perspective to the ancient mythology and tradition.
On a different note, it fascinates me how one festival has so many legends attached to it and celebrated differently elsewhere. Let’s look at some of the places where Diwali is celebrated differently.
If you thought Goa is all about beaches and pubs, think again. In Goa, Diwali is celebrated where Lord Krishna is worshiped by burning effigies of the demon Narkasur. They say, in ancient times, the land Goi or Gomantak was ruled by the demon king Narkasur. who was a bad ruler who would abduct girls, be destructive and arrogant.
Kerala is the only state perhaps which has a low key affair during Diwali. The native people of Kerala do not celebrate Diwali. But places which have Tamilians, Bengalis and north Indians in Kerala celebrate the festival with enthusiasm. But Kerala, still remains God’s own country!
West Bengal and Assam
West Bengal people offer their pooja to Goddess Kali and then light fireworks. So in Bengal, it is not Laxmi Pooja but Kali Pooja. Kali is the more aggressive goddess.
Dev Deepavali in Varanasi
Well, this is actually celebrated 15 days after Diwali and should not be confused with Diwali. On karthik poornima, the steps of ghats are all lit up with million diyas.
The festival of lights is called Sohrai in the tribe of Santhals of Jharkhand. It marks the harvest of rice and worship of cattle in the tribal parts. Women decorate the mud walls of their houses with art murals.
In tribal areas of Odisha, seek blessings of their ancestors. As per the ritual, they burn jute stems to create a fire and seek blessings from their ancestors.
Bastar celebrates Diwali as Diyari. They too celebrate Diwali by worshiping the cattle and praying the crops for a good harvest.
Thakar, schedule tribe from Maharashtra
Thakur the schedule tribe in the forest of Maharashtra, celebrate Diwali by making lamps from the furit called chibra and the stand of the lamp is made from cow-dung. They also perform fold dance with dhols.
Yes. One festival. Different ways of celebrating it. I love the diversity India is has to offer. And once again it re-instates why I am a fan of my country!
Do you know of any such cultures and traditions related to Diwali! This hobo would love to hear.
Happy Diwali to one and all.