Question 13. Allied to this topic, two more queries crop up. First Why and how should we observe the festivals?
Celebration of festivals and sacred days is a common phenomenon found in all religions. The common masses, though they may gain some knowledge through philosophy, and wisdom through mythology, are not satisfied at heart unless they can perform some rites and rituals associated with religion. Celebration of festivals and sacred days affords them such opportunities. Performing these will give them peace and joy. At the social level, greater unity and co operation are achieved. Also, festivals help in the dissemination of religion and culture.
On such days one is expected to devote more time for prayer and spiritual pursuits than on other days. Partaking of a feast on such days is actually symbolic of the spiritual feast we are expected to reap. So, observing festivals and sacred days through feasts only, forgetting the spirit behind them, is only a mockery of religion. This is how a holy day is often reduced to a holiday! These festivals could be the birthdays of our great spiritual and religious leaders like Ramanavami or important milestones in the history of our religion and culture (like Gitajayanti). They could also be occasions of thanks giving to Mother Nature (like Makara Sankranti).
Then there are other festivals like Dipavali or Durgotsava which have mythological origins. Good days in one's own life (like a birthday) might also be occasions of such rejoicing. However, on all such days, one is expected to observe fasting, self control, worship of the family deity, honouring the elders and, taking their blessings. Partaking of the feast along with relatives and friends, visiting their homes and exchanging presents, which are the usual things that happen on such days, may follow, but not substitute, austerity and self discipline.
During the Dusserah season, Ramlila and Durgapuja are celebrated in North India with great eclat. So does South India celebrate Ganesha Chaturthi. Holi is a common festival observed in all parts of the country. However, it is highly regrettable that, of late, in these festivals, the religious and spiritual favour has declined steeply, giving rise to indecent and violent activities. It is high time that our society wakes up to these aberrations, takes. effective steps to eradicate them and restores our festivals to their pristine and solemn glory.