Three dimensions of a festival

There is much debate in the country about whether religion and its ceremonies should be private in homes, temples or public spaces. No celebration, especially religious, should block roads or inconvenience people, regardless of the religion to which one belongs. At the same time, at least speaking of the Hindu religion, there are three aspects to the celebrations.

There is a purely religious aspect which is very often expressed in houses and temples. There is also a social aspect that is expressed both in temples and in public celebrations. It is this part that has helped to bind the country together, as one culture, one heritage despite all the differences because the Hindu religion, by its very nature, is inclusive. In fact, every Hindu religious celebration invites other religious communities to participate without any fear of being converted or having their religious beliefs compromised in any way. This has been the glory of Hinduism, in our trust in ourselves and in others. We welcome everyone and are prepared to be all inclusive.

There is also a purely spiritual dimension, very individualistic based on symbolism and practices transmitted from gurus to shishyas, students. Certain meditation practices called upasana, involving various deities, are purely spiritual and form part of the individual’s sadhana. These different practices depend on the sampradaya, the individual to whom one belongs or the guru one follows and who is at the other end of the social celebration. Sadhana is for individual spiritual growth.

Thus, in the very structure of a religious festival, it encompasses the religious, social and spiritual dimensions. For example, Navratri is celebrated in the temple with hamas and pujas. At the social level, there are celebrations including Garba in societies and communities, not the modern, commercial version. The spiritual dimension of Srividya Upasana and the recitation of mantras are learned and transmitted from master to students. So in this way the whole gamut from public to individual is covered by any given festival and this is true for all Hindu religious festivals.

(The author is the founder of the Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him at [email protected])

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Posted: Friday April 29th 2022, 07:13 IST

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