18 Mar 2018

A culture of celebrations

Much of cross-cultural communication rests on understanding of the culture. India is often knows as the culture of celebrations. And what better than today to talk about it. It’s day for celebration! And a new year celebration at that. Today marks the new year for many communities in different parts of India.

Gudi Padwa for some, Ugadi for others, Cheti Chand for still others.

Governed by a solar and a luni-solar calendar at times, India has a global reputation of continuously celebrating .

But is that true?

Not really. It’s just the diversity of religions, communities, beliefs, calendars and yes even the weather that brings forth various celebrations in various parts of India. What is more important is how we celebrate and why.

But here are 5 reasons why we DO celebrate!

  1. Our festivals are about legends
    Each of our festivals have a legend behind it. Sometimes it is from one of our great epics The Mahabharat or sometimes from The Ramayan. Sometime it is from our even older scriptures. For instance, Gudi Padwa is the day Lord Brahma actually created the Universe. It’s a new world from today. Your chance to start anew. Happy New Universe! Does this not need a celebration?
  2. Our festivals are also about rituals and symbols
    In Maharashtra the traditional Gudi is  hoisted high on a flag pole as a symbol of victory and abundance. The significance of the pole is so it can be seen from a great distance. Some say this was to mark Lord Ram’s victory as he returned to the kingdom of Ayodhya, after his victory over Ravana. Some say it’s as recent as Chhatrapati Shivaji’s victory. In any case, what’s not to celebrate?
  3. India is historically an agricultural economy
    Our celebration stem from the seasons and nature. We celebrate at the start of the festive season infusing the earth with an air of love and positivity. We celebrate at the end of the festive season because it’s been a wonderful harvest and we are grateful for the abundance. And then (my conjecture entirely) we celebrate sometimes in the middle of the two seasons because hey, we are waiting for the crops to grow and we have nothing to do now.
  4. India is a collective culture
    This  means that the larger context, the family, the group is more important than the individual. A festival, or a celebration is yet another way of bringing the community together with a common purpose. Weddings, ritual ceremonies and festivals become more of a social occasion than religious or formal. Even if one of the religions is celebrating a festival, the entire neighbourhood is invited to be part of that celebration. And celebration also means the sharing of food… which brings us to the next point.
  5. We love food
    Most festivals have rituals and traditions intrinsically linked to them. Indian festivals have that PLUS a huge ‘festival’ menu that is specific to the festival, the day, the community and the region! Woohoo! Well, probably the term ‘a feast for the tastebuds’ was invented during an Indian festival.

So if you find Indians celebrating, you should do what all of us do… join in the celebrations. Because that’s what they are meant to be – a collective celebration of life!

Happy Gudi Padva, Cheti Chand, Ugadi or whatever it is you are celebrating today.
In any case Happy New Universe to you!