Are Indian Festivals Loasing Their Charm?
As a multi-religious and multi-cultural country, Indians celebrate countless festivals all through the year. Every big and small occasion in India is a cause for festivities, whether it is the harvesting of the crop, the arrival of spring, or the triumph of good over evil. The festivals are celebrated with great fanfare, featuring a wonderful blend of elaborate decoration, lively music, colorful attire, mouthwatering food, and quality time spent with loved ones. These occasions bring with them a wave of excitement that breaks the monotony of daily life and encourages family and community celebrations.
From the festival of lights to the festival of colors, each commemoration has its own essence, significance, and ritual. The majority of these festivals have a mythological story attached to them. These narratives are passed down from one generation to another so that future generations understand why these festivals are significant and continue to honor them.
People all over the world admire and love the passion with which Indians celebrate their festivals. However, there is a growing perception that Indian festivals aren’t the same as they used to be. The way we celebrate has changed; some rituals have been modified, while others have been abandoned. They are no longer enjoyed with the same enthusiasm as they were a decade ago. The true significance of the festivals has been lost as every facet has been commercialized. This makes me wonder, “Have Indian festivals lost their charm?” and “Are the festivals still relevant?”
Indian Festivals Losing Their Essence?
Regretfully, this is true to a large extent. Smaller families, a hectic lifestyle, rampant commercialization, increasing levels of globalization, the emergence of social media, and a shift in mindset have all contributed to a dip in the festive spirit. With the proliferation of online shopping, families no longer go out together to buy gifts. Festive shopping for gifts, gold, silver, and clothing is a thing of the past. In fact, you don’t have to wait for special occasions to wear new clothes and devour exclusive meals. In this day and age of instant gratification, people make year-round purchases. Things we used to get only during Diwali are now easily accessible and available 365 days a year.
The explosion of social media has been the most significant catalyst. The younger generation is now glued to their laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Instead of observing the festivals, they prefer to watch Netflix shows or browse Facebook and Instagram. It’s all about getting dressed up and posting photos on social media. The number of likes is more valuable than the love & blessings of the elders. For many people, the holiday season means staying up late binge-watching web series and not having to get up early the next day. They are not interested in meeting new people or attending social gatherings. Sending and receiving greetings and messages via Facebook and WhatsApp is good enough.
Another important aspect of the festival that has lost its allure is the traditional sweets and specialties prepared during the festivities. Grandmothers and mothers have stopped making delicious treats at home and have started buying them from Mithai shops. Consuming sweets or fried savories, even when prepared at home, is now considered unhealthy. On the other hand, ordering global cuisine and ‘healthy’ salads from Zomato and Swiggy is exactly in line with their dietary preferences. Also, you can indulge in Gujiyas and Seviyan Kheer any time of year – you don’t just have to wait for Holi and Eid. The ‘special treats’ are readily available these days, so people enjoy them year-round and their value has diminished.
Families are smaller, which lessens the joy of the occasion. Nothing beats the excitement of celebrating festivals with your extended family. I miss the days when everyone would gather at their grandparents’ house, which was always packed with uncles, aunts, and cousins, and have a blast there. We still celebrate festivals, but it is mostly a family reunion of the immediate family. Close members spend a couple of hours together, have fun, eat and drink, and then go back to their separate lives. The true essence of age-old rituals and Indian culture is missing.
Holi and Rakhi are Becoming Less Popular
Rakhi celebrates the sacred bond between a brother and a sister. On this day, the sister ties a Rakhi around her brother’s wrist, and the brother promises to protect their sisters. They share sweets, gifts, and fond memories. In the olden days, the far-away sisters would send their brothers a hand-written letter with a simple Rakhi. The festival’s innocence and simplicity have now gone for a toss. Archies cards and Amazon couriers have replaced the loving letters. The Rakhi holidays are used to plan a vacation, and the cherished day is conveniently shifted to accommodate other plans. The cousin’s reunion, the shared laughter, and the non-stop bickering are now missing and the festival has lost its appeal and sanctity.
Environmental concerns are making festivals less exciting. Holi is no longer celebrated because it wastes water, and the majority of people are now ‘allergic’ to colors. Applying colors was supposed to spread love, joy, and harmony, but there is now concern that they could be used as an excuse for unruly inappropriate behavior. One such minor incident is exaggerated to epic proportions by social media, and the entire festival is declared toxic. Women endure abuse every day in India; why taint the festival? Nobody is interested in ‘Holika Dahan’ or the intriguing story behind it. The popular festival no longer exudes the same energy and is now merely a day to unwind with friends.
Diwali Is Not the Same Anymore
Diwali, India’s most loved and celebrated festival, has suffered the most. The preparations usually start a few weeks before Diwali, with tasks like cleaning, painting, designing Rangolis, shopping for clothes and gifts, stocking crackers and Diyas, making sweets, and so forth. The majority of the activities mentioned have been phased out. People are too busy to do housework, no one wants to eat sweets, shopping is an ongoing activity nowadays, and fireworks are strictly prohibited because they contribute to pollution. Electric Diyas, candles, and fairy lights have largely replaced earthen Diyas. Sticker Rangolis has taken the place of handmade and vibrant Rangolis.
Fireworks and family time have given way to card and drink parties. We appear to have forgotten the excitement of lighting an Anar, seeing a rocket sparkle in the sky, and twirling around a spinning Chakri. Everyone now strives for a smoke-free and noise-free Diwali. Children pledge not to burst crackers at school. I understand that we have serious environmental problems, but can’t we regulate them better? Why ban only crackers when there are many root causes of pollution in Delhi? Giving a little leeway for one day would rekindle the excitement among children who have nothing else to do on Diwali except watch the adults gamble. And, if we truly want to avoid crackers, why is it that no one complains when there are fireworks on New Year’s Eve or when India wins a cricket match?
We seem to have lost the lure of simple things in our pursuit of greater accomplishments. The celebration of Durga Puja in today’s age differs greatly from that of the past. The primary focus of the modern-day Durga Puja is the extravagant idols of the goddess Durga placed inside the exorbitantly decorated Pandals, which use enormous quantities of resources. After the celebration, the expensive idols are submerged in water, and the Pandals are ripped apart, exacerbating the fragility of the local ecosystems.
The challenges do not end here. Karwa Chauth is considered patriarchal and regressive by the ‘feminists’ who think it’s cool to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Voices are raised on every aspect of the festivities, and thanks to digital India, these opinions are shared widely. We want to be seen as modern, feminists, environmentalists, and progressive, so we are willing to give up our traditions and culture in order to blend into the Western world. Instead of rejoicing in our delightful festivals, we are more interested in celebrating Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, and Halloween.
It is about time to return to our roots and preserve the core values of the festivals. Wake up and rediscover the old ways of celebrating festivals. Otherwise, Indian festivals would be lost, and the sole occasion that we would be celebrating would be the ‘Amazon Shopping Festival.