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Births, baptisms, Annaprasan/Upanayan, engagements, marriages and deaths are socio-religious events, across all socio-economic and socio-cultural groups (ranging from the Aborigines/Tribal groups to the Fifth Avenue urbanities in New York)
Songs, dances, food festivals and carnivals are different expressions of Events.
Eminent educationist Prof RH Dave said Tagore introduced the concept of aesthetics in education. No educational thinker before (or after) him could perceive its palpable impact. He wove songs, dances, musicals along with Hymns and Bhajans in the education curriculum at Vishva Bharati. The world followed his example.
Similarly, in Maharashtra, the 10-day long Ganesh Utsav, is celebrated like the Barwari puja, by the public. It was started by Lok Manya Tilak for furthering the Freedom movement. The patriotic zeal has been replaced by socio-religious function, complete with cultural extravaganza
The Kumbha Mela in Allahabad is a 40-day mega event. With over 10 crore people visiting the fair, once in 12 years, a temporary city of tins, tents and bamboos spring up on the banks of Triveni Sangam, at Prayagraj. It is believed that gods walk with pilgrims, during the main bathing days. Half the period is Ardha Kumbha (ongoing fair, now). Every year, Magh mela is held, on a smaller scale.
An Akhara procession is a common sight at Kumbha Mela. Sadhus take out processions, at the time of arrival at Kmbha Nagar and also during the ‘Shahi Snan’ on Makar Sankranti, Mauni Amavasya and Basant Panchami, the three main bathing days.
The Pushkar Mela, Ajmer district, in Rajasthan, popularly known as the camel fair, is a socio-economic and socio-religious Event. Other than its rituals of bathing in the Pushkar lake, it’s a place to buy and sell cattle and camel.
Sample some scenes from Pushkar, Ajmer district, Rajasthan. In recent times, foreign tourists are crowding the mela site. The colours, songs and dances, offer a slice of Rajasthani folk life. It’s a treat for the senses.
The Elephant festival of Jaipur is the second most important animal festival of Rajasthan. These pachyderms cats walk like fashion models. The elephants move with poise, play polo and finally participate in the Spring festival, a day before Holi.
When, in 1888, the Santiniketan Trust Deed was drawn, provision was made for a Mela. This Mela, even today, attracts crowds of visitors from the neighbouring countryside and from Calcutta. It had the blessings of Tagore. The Bauls (wandering minstrels) of Bengal visit the Paush Mela in large numbers. It is held in the last week of December, every year.
Next page: A poster for the promotion of Paush Mela. Bauls are used as mascot.
The Portuguese, during their 450 year rule over Goa, introduced the potato, tomato, cashew, tobacco, papaya, guava, pineapple, cathedrals Catholicism... and the Carnival. Christianity had come to India before the Portuguese landed on Indian shores. The Roman Catholicism of the Portuguese drew much of its mores from the old civilisation of the Roman Empire, even to using Latin in many of its religious ceremonies. Carnival is a festival of joy.
A view of the Carnival, at Goa. It’s a Spring festival and is an unique example of an existing Hindu festival being amalgamated with the Portugese Christian traditions. The Carnival is a crucible of cross-cultural confluence.
The Rath Yatra, or the famous chariot festival, at Puri, is a major draw for the Hindus, particularly for the Vaishnava sect. The ruling deity, Jaggannath, goes out of the temple, once a year, on his annual journey. The Orissa government has organised Puri’s Beach festival around this time, to showcase the state’s rich culture.
Madurai, in Tamilnadu, hosts one of the most picturesque Float Festival or 'Teppothsavam'. The idols of Goddess Meenakshi and her consort Lord Sundareshwarar are taken in grand procession to the big lake called Teppakolam, and drawn around a shrine built in the middle of the small island in the centre of the lake, seated on a decorated float called 'Teppa'. At dawn, deities are carried in golden palanquins escorted by elephants, horses, musicians and thousands of devotees.
It is always held at Ahmedabad on January 14, to coincide with the festival of Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. The people of Gujarat celebrate Uttarayan with a lot of enthusiasm and all business comes to a grinding halt for a couple of days. It is also a celebration to mark the end of winter. A three-day festival, It began in 1989, on a big scale, with the state government’s initiative.
Though International Kite festival is celebrated at Ahmedabad, Jaipur too is known for its Kite festival on Uttarayan. Kites are flown throughout the country, on this day. We see some strange kites, at Ahmedabad.
Hyderabad comes alive during the Deccan Festival with ghazal nights, qawalis and mushairas, typical of the city. A pearl and bangle fair displays creations in lustrous pearls and multi-hued bangles that are local specialities. A food fest serves the best of Hyderabad's famed cuisine to visitors. Organised by the Department of Tourism, Andhra Pradesh, the Deccan Festival is celebrated in February/March every year.
During Deccan festival, many cultural programmes are organised. Renowned singers and dancers are invited for performances, making the Deccan festival a must-see for every visitor . It also includes Pearls and Bangles fair, displaying creations in lustrous pearls and multi-hued bangles that are local specialties.
India's spectacular handloom and handicrafts fair is organised in a rural setting at Surajkund in the vicinity of New Delhi. At this annual week-long mela craftsmen from all over the country meet and bring alive the age-old living crafts tradition. Visitors see them at work. Skilled artisans display their wares in the typical setting of a rural Indian marketplace. Cultural programmes and rural cuisine are also a part of this fair.
Khajuraho Dance Festival is held every spring to celebrate the glory of the temples. It is believed that classical dance basically comes from the Hindu temples. This festival is a celebration of the Indian arts: the legacy of dance and music. It showcases the best classical dancers and dances in the country. It is held during the month of March, from 6th to 12th.
A glimpse of the Khujaraho Dance Festival. Danseuses seem to bring alive the erotic temple frescos. The divine and the mortal seem to blend beautifully. Large number of foreign and inland tourists visit this festival.
With media turning its spotlights of festivals, the affluent class too is being drawn to various fairs and festivals: Crafts mela, kite and animal festivals. Possibly, because foreigners are attending these.
Kumbha mela, Pushkar, Elephant and Deccan festivals, Surajkund Craft mela and Khujaraho Dance festivals are attracting the affluent urban class as well.
With government and tourism departments chipping in, festivals have about 95 per cent attendance of our populace, other than international attention (Kumbha & Surajkund Craft melas).
Strangely, the powerful media barons are more interested in painting the High-Sensex-Progressive-almost-Superpower-India.
The ‘Rosy bubble’ is aimed at attracting advertisers.
For example, ‘real India’ might be seen, when 8 crore devotees brave the January chill of Allahabad’s night to bathe in the Confluence of rivers. As a scribe, I have seen a sea of humanity pray and chant mantras, peacefully.
These people have no representation in bureaucracy, Planning Commission, or the visible decision makers, in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, or any other metropolis.