Are decadent celebrations destroying the spirit behind festivals like Holi and Diwali?

Every festival has been reduced to its most extravagant aspect, and what we end up celebrating is wealth.

 |  3-minute read |   02-03-2018
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Every festival has definite associations – Diwali is about lights, Holi stands for colours, Eid brings to mind sevaiyyan, Christmas, of course, has carols and decorating trees.

What unites all the festivals is that they are a time for people to come together, celebrating companionship as they hail the triumph of good over evil. In the past few years, however, another common theme seems to run across all festivals – money and the proud display of it.

Thus, Holi, more than the advent of spring or the love of Radha-Krishna, is about pool parties and lavish events. Diwali, more than remembering the victory of an exiled, righteous prince over a mighty king, is about exchanging gifts and bursting the most number of crackers in the neighbourhood.

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Every festival is being reduced to its most extravagant, most decadent aspect, and what we are ending up celebrating is wealth.

In Delhi, a simple google search will direct you to scores of “Holi parties”, where the price of the cheapest ticket hovers around Rs 1,000.

A festival which used to be about neighbours playing with colours in soon-to-be-discarded clothes through the day and getting together for gujhiya and pua in the evening has turned into a mega event, with revelers wearing coordinated outfits and water and colours being provided as part of professional services.

Those who cannot afford such parties aspire to them, as Bollywood, ad campaigns and the media tells them that this is the “cool” way to celebrate the festival.

In the run-up to almost every festival, advertisement boards on streets start flashing special “discounts”, e-commerce websites announce sales, all in a bid to spread “festive cheer”. We are told everything – from the right couture for each festival to how to do up your home to the food to serve your guests and what to serve it in.

We aspire to have the most beautifully decorated home, to host the most impressive party, to manage pictures that will later be everyone’s envy on social media.

This competitive revelry takes us miles away from the spirit of the festival, which is about religious celebration and spending time with our loved ones.

We are so focused on hosting a designer party that we fail to appreciate the company of the people invited, concentrate on how long our firecrackers last and don’t remember that they are about spreading cheer, not outdoing the neighbour.

The moment we make a festival about individual enjoyment, we forget the needs of others, and destroy the spirit of any festival. Holi, thus, is becoming synonymous with water wastage and harassment of women, Diwali about polluting the environment, Christmas about fancy trees and fancier gifts.

When such practices are criticised, they are taken to be an attack on people’s religious beliefs.

At a time when India is facing “its worst water crisis in generations" and several states regularly face drought-like conditions, splashing water about for a Holi party is irresponsible and insensitive.

For cities like Delhi, battling terrible pollution levels, bursting crackers well into the night is suicidal.

Immersing idols into already polluted water bodies affects humans as well as other forms of life.

This is not to say that only a particular community’s festivals lead to problems. Eid witnesses cruelty to animals, Christmas is becoming overly commercialised.

When a festival is limited to its loudest, most decadent aspect, it leads to wastage, which has costs for the environment. When the aim of a festival becomes the display of wealth, ostentation takes the place of celebration.

Festivals are meant to spread joy. That cannot happen if the festivity is not tempered by responsibility.    

Also read: It won't be long before we start calling Holi 'India's Tomatina'

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