Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Friendship Day & Nag Panchami !

 “What you celebrate, defines what society you are living in!”… Aristotle.

No need to introduce the Greek legendary philosopher, whose simple words speaks so much philosophy about life & it’s a recent kissa in Pune’s leading Daily made me recall this quote of his about the festivals. Those who knows a bit Hindu Mythology, will know what it means Shrwan month has started recently, it’s a month which is celebrated as start of festivals as well many people follows fasting during week days in this month for e.g. Monday is for Lord Shiva & Sunday is for Sun god etc. The month of Shrawan starts with a very unique festival i.e. “Nag Panchami”, on this day which is 5th day of month Shrawan, women in villages used to warship (pooja) Snakes, usually a Cobra as Nag in Marathi means Cobra Snake.  On this day ladies apply Mehandi on their hand, wear new clothes & play group game & sing  Aartis (songs dedicated to particular god or goddess) here in name of Nag Devata i.e. Snake God. So a small girl saw her mom doing all this & asked what's up? On this the mom replied today is Nag Panchami that’s why I have applied mehandi. The girl asked what’s Nag Panchami? Now it was up to the mom to explain but this is Google era as well no time to explain such things to the kids, so all that mom told to her daughter was, its Snakes Birthday that’s why we are celebrating & the little girl was happy saying then let’s get cake for Snake! This has been printed in a column which takes note of such small things in the city & around, which many would have read & smiled at innocence of kids & left it there only. Even I too would have done that but then I realized on the very same day of Nag Panchami, the entire society was celebrating something, though not many were part of Nag Panchami celebrations but it was Friendship Day too!

Now with FB, Whats-ap, Chat-on, Instagram as well Twitter, we have easiest of means to wish our loved ones as well pose ourselves with them & so the social media was full with friendship philosophies as well messages & snaps but hardly a few were even aware that it was Nag Panchami. Those who are in teen age I don’t blame them as in city life they have forgotten to see even a earth worm leave apart a snake but my genre which is in mid forties & those who have come from town or villages must be missing such festivals as Nag Panchami! And then I posted a message saying so that today is Nag Panchami & wrote something about snakes on FB which made many of my friends realize that it’s Nag Panchami too! Basically it’s the festival of farmers whose Snake is best friend, about this many people will wonder that in a country where nearly fifty thousand people dies with snake bite, how can snake be a friend of man! Agreed a lot many people die because of snake bite & many more suffer a lot if they don’t die yet snakes protects crops by keeping rats which are far biggest enemy of entire mankind as if you Google for the losses which occurs due to rats eating grains, then you will realize & the diseases rats causes are another aspect. Unfortunate that the rats as they directly don’t present any harm like snake bite, we don’t consider the importance of snakes’ duty for protecting us from rats. But our ancestors have realized it & what better way than to start festive season than celebrating Nag Panchami, as its harvest season too. Now you will realize importance of Nag Panchami as a society & wisdom of our ancestors as well their connection with nature!

While thinking about this aspect of Nag Panchami I started thinking about our other such festivals where we pay tribute to nature by celebrating the existence of such element & to my wonder every major festival in our beloved India is related to some or other animal or tree or water or fire i.e. to the mother nature & that’s why it become more important in this era where Environment Conservation or Heat Iceland or Global Warming like terms are causing more concern than a World War! For example take Bail Pola i.e. Bull Festival if you literally translate it & no this Bull has no relation with Share Market, except the Bull Statue which is at the entrance of Bombay Stock Exchange, here on this day farmers takes extra care of their bulls & clad them with fancy clothes & cook special meal for them. On Pola day no bull is supposed to work which otherwise a usual hectic day for the poor specie, rather on this day they is carnival & every farmer displays his bull pair proudly in a procession all around the village & in evening when the bull pair returns to their home the house wife warship them & after they eat their meal the entire house have their dinner! Just writing this made me so nostalgic & tears of joy came in my eyes with the emotions, how I miss these scenes, as how lucky I was to witness such act of friendship or acknowledging relation even with the bulls & how unlucky today’s younger genre is as they even don’t know what they are missing!

Another classic example is a festival named Vat Savitri (Vat is banyan tree), on this day women warship banyan tree & pray for long life of their better halves; imagine what a festival respecting nature! As banyan tree is one of the most important tree in nature cycle, one its long life, probably the longest living tree & its expand is huge as well every aspect of banyan tree is supporting lives of many species from birds to insects & the shadow it offers to everyone is symbol of care taking, the mere sight of full grown banyan tree is soothing to eyes & that’s why it’s in a way iconic representation of importance of trees in human life! Though Vat Savitri is oriented around the banyan tree but in a way it’s symbolic tribute paying of entire mankind towards the role of the trees in our life as when a lady wish to banyan tree for longer life that means she is expecting the life span of her better half as long as the tree & a life which he should live like banyan tree, fulfilling everybody’s expectation from him! What better way of wishing good life to your partner than worshiping specie like Banyan tree & it shows again how our ancestors have understood importance of trees in our life & found out way to conserve them along; as how you will cut a tree which fulfills your wife’s prayer for your own life!

The more I started thinking about this aspect the more I started realizing that consider any of the festival in our Hindu traditions; each one is tribute to some animal or natural element. Even our gods & goddess too are shown taking rest with some animal or making it as their carrier though symbolic i.e. Lord Shiva has Nandi i.e. a bull & where as Vishnu rests under shadow of Shesh i.e.  a snake, Maa Sherowali i.e. most famous goddess of the country, called Durga rides a Sher i.e. a tiger & who can imagine killing Durga’s own riding animal! Last but not least even the Dogs are shown around god named Datta Guru, as since long dogs are part of our life as best friend & protector! In south most of the states have Elephant festival like Bail Pola in Maharashtra, where elephants are decorated & people make Pooja & prayers for them on the day! And then who can forget Holi, a festival which entire northern part of country celebrates & its festival of colors; it’s the colors which makes us realize beauty of nature. And Holika too which is festival of fire & which is supposed to burn all the ill elements within us. To end, we have our biggest festival as Diwali which is festival of light & not to forget, the first day of Diwali is Vasu Baras i.e. on that day cows are worshipped. In a country where farming was & is, backbone of economy for years, no wonder cows are like life line & what better way that to warship them on the start of festival of the country itself!

The more I think about all these traditional festivals the more my respect grows for the wisdom of our forefathers who have understood importance of nature & its elements & that’s why they started celebrating existence of these elements as in a way its conservation of all such natural element, may it be water in the form of rivers & ocean, fire, tress or tigers! And not only this, we have festivals like Raksha Bandhan where a relation of sister & brother is conserved as well we have a day of Padwa right in Diwali for husband wife too! Needless to say where the entire Hindu philosophy resolves around having a Guru which completes your life by giving meaning to your life we have Guru Pornima, to pay tribute to  Guru i.e. teacher & tells us about importance of having  a Guru for each of us in every form!

On this background of our festivals, look at what western world has gifted us for celebration; its days like Friendship Day, Teachers Day, Mothers Day, Fathers Day & what not! All this just to make us remind values of relations which they have forgotten & we too are following same path blindly. On the top of it world is now celebrating World Environment Day or Earth Day, by virtue of which entire mankind is supposed to remember our duty towards nature conservation, but had we been following our traditional festivals like Nag Panchami or Vat Savitri & that too by understanding true feelings behind them & not just to show off that how we love our traditions, then at least we wouldn’t have been required to follow Environment Day! Though nothing wrong in celebrating such days but with the rich cultural heritage, literally every month we have at least one festival, which co-relates us to the nature. All we have to do is respect that heritage a bit as that will only be making this country a better place to live; or else someday every our festivals will be just part of history in school books & all that we will be doing is to wait for Father’s or Mother’s Day, to get a whats-ap greeting from our kids & as Aristotle has said, we only will be at blame as that’s what our festivals will be! 

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjay Deshpande 

Sanjeevani Dev.

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