Guiding Light: Honouring our ancestors

— Swami Brahmavidananda Saraswati

This is Mahalaya paksha where Indians and Hindus in particular honour their ancestors. It seems a quaint custom when we are living in a time where we barely know our grandparents on both sides. So what is the need to honour our grandparents and other ancestors? Well, there are religious, philosophical and esoteric reasons for the same. But I will focus on only one aspect of this. It is a clear psychological fact-unless we have accepted, come to terms and are happy with our past we cannot really have a healthy self-esteem. The past does not involve your immediate history but also your family, your community, your traditions, your culture and heritage. There are some research papers that show that among the many communities that migrate to western countries Indians have comparatively lower self-esteem in spite of being successful academically and professionally. One of the reasons is that many are disconnected from their past and their heritage. One cannot have healthy self-esteem when they have disowned their past. In fact, I have discovered that after being abroad for a couple of years, they seek people like me to know more about our heritage.

What connects you with your heritage is really your ancestors who lived the heritage and kept it alive for it to come down to you. You may have some problems with one of them. There may be some uncomfortable issues with some of them. That’s okay. It is necessary to come to terms with our ancestors and honour them. I also found that a lot of people in the services, who though not financially successful as others, having high self-esteem. They have owned up their ancestral lineage and heritage. After all, our ancestors are the link to the ancient history of this land, a land that has gone through various trials and turmoils over the last two thousand years but survived as a living culture and tradition. It is high time we honour our ancestors.

(The writer is the founder of Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him at

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