A wonderful and prosperous festive season to you all!
Yesterday I guided another group of tourists and friends on a tour of the Festivals of India. An interested and interactive group, that stayed back and discussed religion and social practices, culture and rituals.
One of the stories that I included was on Savitri. The epitome of Indian womanhood. Demure, gentle. Grace personified, but also absolutely fearless and resolute. And the festival that we celebrate in her memory- the simple ‘Kaaradai nombu’ where a woman prays for her husband’s long life.
Yet another festival I talked about was the joyous occasion of ‘Pongal“- one of India’s many harvest festivals. Pongal literally translates to “the overflowing”, the bounty. Celebrated on 14th of January, this is a three day affair honoring the elemental gods- Indra the rain god, Surya the sun god. The third day is reserved for all of the animal kingdom, honoring the symbiotic relation that man has with the environment.
One festival I love is ‘Raksha Bandhan‘ which celebrates sibling bonding. My favourite story illustrating ‘Raksha Bandhan’ is the one about Rani Karnavati the Rajput Queen of Mewar and Humayun the second Mughal Emperor.
Karnavati the widowed Queen was the regent safeguarding the Mewar throne for her young son. Bahadur Shah the ruler of Gujrat attacked the kingdom, confident that Karnavati had no one to turn to for help. Realizing that none of the other princely states of Rajasthan would come to her aid, Karnavati sent a length of silk and a message beseeching Humayun to come and rescue her from her aggressor.
The fledgling emperor known for his chivalry, abandoned his military campaign in Bengal and started toward Rajasthan, touched by the request of the desperate queen.
Unfortunately Humayun arrived too late….. Rani Karnavati had smuggled her children off to safety and committed ‘Jauhar’. The unique practice by which Rajput women threw themselves into a sacrificial fire rather than fall prey to the enemy.
Rakhee or Raksha Bandhan is celebrated to this day. And so too Humayun’s gallantry.
We ended the tour with less tragic tales. Tales about the Parsees and how they came to India. Their new year ‘Navroz’. Stories about the Buddha and how Buddhism spread far and beyond Indian shores. Stories about Mahavira and Jainism. About Guru Nanak and Sikhism. And all the joyous festivals that we celebrate across India.
I would love to hear stories behind festivals celebrated around the world…. Happy Thanksgiving!