September 15, 2007

life in general: the (mostly) false celebration of gods in india

Today, a 10-day religious festival of Ganesha began here in Bombay and in all parts of India. Anyone and everyone who wants to revere Ganesha, who is considered as an important God by Hindus, can do so in a more enhanced manner during this 10-day festival. But, like all aspects of our society and polity, this has, by and large, become polluted with loudness, commercial exploitation, extortion, political manipulation, religious extremism and vulgarity.

Living in Bombay since last 37 years from the time of my birth I have seen with my eyes how Ganesh Chaturthi (as the festival is called) has come from a less shrill affair to the vulgar display that it has become today.

The big and small Ganesha idols, made largely from plaster of paris material that pollutes the sea and rivers where they are immersed, are taken through the streets in the most boisterous manner possible. The streets of many cities are taken over by the so-called devotees on 4 out of the 10 days of the festival. The most obnoxious thing, in my view, is their use of thousands, nay millions, of extremely loud and heavy smoke-emitting firecrackers. During Diwali festival, towards the end of every year, this is hundred times more worse.

To cater to false religious pride, the government and the authorities allow things to happen during the festival which on other days they will pounce upon any group or groups doing it. I consider this hypocrisy on the part of Indian society and administration.

To be sure, we see such fanaticism in the celebration of the festivals of most of the religions worldwide. But I wonder whether the fanaticism seen here during the current Ganesh Chaturthi festival, the forthcoming (in October this year ) Navaratri festival and the Diwali festival (in November this year), surpasses all of them.

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