It’s one festival that people of all religions in India celebrate. And it’s today. Well, for those who like to extend festivities, it’s today and tomorrow.
Today is Diwali, the Indian festival of lights. It celebrates the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya after vanquishing Ravana, the demon king of what is considered in mythology to be Sri Lanka, and bringing back his wife, Sita, after she had been abducted by the king.
It is marked by prayers, of course, but for non-religious folks like me it is best celebrated with the lighting of lamps, bursting of fire-crackers, sharing of sweets and wearing new clothes. Friends and relations call on each other with good wishes and gifts of sweets and dry fruits (these days, it’s even chocolates).
The lighting of lamps, according to legend, was to light Lord Ram’s path as he was making his way back to Ayodhya. The drumbeat of the ruling Hindu nationalist party for the building of the Ram temple is marking the path to the disputed site of Ayodhya this year, where the Babri Mosque was demolished in 1992.
It is a disconcerting thought on what should be a day of celebration and joy, that the government and the ruling party (they find it hard to distinguish between the two) should raise such issues when the matter is yet to be decided in the country’s highest court. The clamour has gotten so loud and brazen, that they even want an ordinance to be brought in.
In fact, an ordinance has become the default option to legislate on anything that the ruling dispensation wants as policy and on which they know there is not likely to be agreement. In other words, this government doesn’t even believe in a debate in parliament. And, of course, close to election season it doesn’t believe in respecting the judiciary either.
But, let us leave such matters for another day. Today, I have decided to relax, treat myself to Diwali goodies and enjoy the sight of a brilliantly lit Diwali evening with my aged parents.
I am hoping, of course, that better sense will prevail even after Lord Ram has reached his home. In true syncretic style, I shall end with the words of the hymn by John Henry Newman:
“Lead, kindly Light, amid encircling gloom;
Lead thou me on; for I am far from home.”