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Guiding Light: Three dimensions of a festival

Swami Brahmavidananda Saraswati | Updated on: Friday, April 29, 2022, 07:13 AM IST

Spiritual dimension of festival (Diwali) | Photo: Pixabay
Spiritual dimension of festival (Diwali) | Photo: Pixabay
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There is a lot of debate in the country about whether religion and its ceremonies should be private in homes, temples or public spaces. No celebration, especially religious, should block roads or inconvenience people irrespective of the religion one belongs to. At the same time, at least speaking of the Hindu religion, there are three aspects to the celebrations.


There is a purely religious aspect that is very often expressed in homes and temples. There is also a social aspect to it, which is expressed in temples as well as public celebrations. It is this part of it that helped bind the country together, as one culture, one heritage in spite of all the differences because the Hindu religion by its very nature is all-inclusive. In fact, every Hindu religious celebration welcomes other religious communities to participate without any fear of being converted, or their religious beliefs being compromised in any manner. That has been the glory of Hinduism, in our trust of ourselves and others. We welcome everyone and are willing to be all-inclusive.

There is also a purely spiritual dimension, which is highly individualistic based on symbolism and practices which are handed over from gurus to shishyas, students. Certain meditation practices referred to as upasana, involving various deities, are purely spiritual and a part of the individual’s sadhana. These different practices depend on the sampradaya, the individual belongs to or the guru that one follows and is on the other end of the social celebration. Sadhana is meant for individual spiritual growth.

So, in the very structure of a religious festival, it encompasses the religious, social, and spiritual dimensions. For example, Navratri is celebrated in the temple with hamas and pujas. At the social level, there are celebrations including Garba in societies and communities, not the modern, commercial version. The spiritual dimension of Srividya Upasana and recitation of mantras are learned and passed on from teacher to students. So, in this manner, the whole gamut from the public to the individual is covered by any given festival and this holds true for all Hindu religious festivals.

(The author is founder, Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him at aarshavidyaf@gmail.com)

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Published on: Friday, April 29, 2022, 07:13 AM IST