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Doing It Everyday 3
|by Meena Kandasamy|
First, the existing days that are remotely connected with anything holy-and-Hindu are made into occasions of celebration. Next, new days are invented to keep up the impetus and the momentum.
Think of the inventiveness and the range of rituals that are earmarked for celebration. Or the fact that conventional days of celebration are switched to something that suits the agenda. S. Radhakrishnan's birthday, September 5, is not Teachers Day in the Sangh-run schools. Despite the poor man having written the Essence of Hinduism. The day is advanced to July 25, the day Vyasa was born. Children's Day has nothing to do with Chacha Nehru, it is to be celebrated on Krishna Jayanthi. Workers Day is not the first of May, for the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (the Sangh Parivar's labor wing) it is the Vishwa Karma Jayanthi.
Then there are the birthday celebrations: Dr. Hedgewar's birthday, Nethaji Subhash Chandra Bose's birthday, Swami Vivekananda's birthday and a birthday observed for every possible holy saint.
Next is the great black-to-white money conversion day, otherwise called Guru Dakshina . And remember the congregational celebrations of Durga Pooja, the Saraswati Pooja, the Ganga Pooja, Go Mata Pooja, the Karthigai Deepam, and so on and so forth. Or of the state-sponsored, the military-present-in-full-rigor Sindhu Darshan.
Every Amavasya and every Poornima has some background to call for a mass ritual. Every Avatar's birthday is celebrated. And one in two Chaturthis, Panchamis, Sapthamis, Ashtamis, Dashamis, and Ekadashis is sure to be celebrated. They merely need an excuse.
There are instances of festivals that border on insanity: the state-sponsored yagnas for rain, the wedding of 16 pairs of living beings (owls, cockroaches, donkeys, insects etc.) for rain, yagnas for India-Pak cricket matches, yagnas for world peace, musical concerts praying to the Rain Gods, yagnas for good performance in examinations where the Sankaracharya himself came to give his blessings, and so on.
For the women, they have the kirtan mandalis, the bhajan mandalis, the matri mandalis, the Ramayana mandalis, the Mahabharata mandalis, the we-will-find-out-more mandalis. And as followers of Toyota Hinduism there are (w)rath yatras. (If they run out of petrol, there's the back-up: pada yatras.) In Tamil Nadu VHP's rath's keep circling all through the state, zipping across from locale to locale. In the early years there was the Jnana Ratham, Shakthi Ratham, Jnana Deepaka Ratham. All this is part of the Reanimation of the Old Faith. Bring in the multimedia kits, as we watch Singhal and Kishore begin to 'reanimate the age-old faith.' Sure enough, most of the divinity would lend itself to animation, to 3-D flash and imaging, the works.
Besides, in the agenda of wooing women, there are the conservative thiruvilakku poojas (deepa poojas), the rath-yatras of Ma Sharada and the Mother of Pondicherry Ashram, bhajan mandalis, and of course a religion based consolidation of the Self-Help Groups that exist in villages.
In tune with being trendy there are fancy dress competitions that are dress rehearsals for future debacles, debate competitions and other such media of brainwashing the children. They are taught cultural samskars and their character is built through recitation, elocution and essay competitions. Offshoot organizations organize three months long 'Spiritual Culture Practice' camps for 16 to 35 year old youth, the food, stay, notebooks, brainwashing, everything is free. There is the complete religionization in the public sphere: in Tamil Nadu, kolu is arranged in State Banks, in shopping malls. Besides, we find a clear-cut cultivation of public insanity: buying gold on Akshaya Tritya brings back 100 times more gold by the end of the year, every magazine writes extensively of the starry gifts-and-hampers that Guru Peyarchi (the transition of Jupiter) brings to individuals or politicians, men rush to buy green saris to their sisters (to ward off evil, to safeguard them), women change their mangalsutras (not their husbands though) if the mangalsutra of a Goddess slips during prayer at any important temple. Of course, all this happens apart from the mind-boggling and calendar-filling festival routine.
Celebrations in the Tamil Nadu context
Since Tamil Nadu was the land of Periyar and rationalism and atheism, the RSS has stuck with a vengeance. In Tamil Nadu, the major organizations that are engaged in the spread of Hindutva are: RSS, Rashtrasevika Samiti, Hindu Munnani , VHP, Hindu Makkal Katchi , Sewa Bharati, Mangaiyar Mangalam, Advaita Ashrama, Vivekananda Kendra, Akhil Bharateeya Vidyarthi Parishad, Jan Kalyan Samiti (bloodbank), Jan Jagran, Swadeshi Jagran Manch, Vivekananda Kalvi Kazhagam, Vidya Bharati, Desiya Vidya Kendra Educational Trust, Samsrit Bharati, Samskar Bharati, Samskrita Kalvi Kazhagam, Malaviya Vidya Kendra, Media Centre, Vigil, Bharatiya Govamsa Rakshan Samvardhan Parishad, Vivekananda Vidya Kala Ashram, Shri Danvantri Ashram, Saraswathi Vidya Mandir, Acharya Sabha, Vishwa Dharma Prachara Iyakkam, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Akhil Bharateeya Matsya Mazdoor Sangh. Although leadership and membership among these organizations is fluid, nothing differentiates them but their banners. In order to understand the vigorousness that is applied to the Tamil Nadu situation, and to see how the tentacles of Hindutva seek to spread in their special project, let us analyze the use of festivals, fasts, fairs and yatras. Let us look at the Hindu Munnani's calendar of events for August and September 2004, the two months in which I research this essay, as a mere illustration. Their weekly official newsletter, the Vijaya Bharatam, specifies (as is their monthly practice) the festival days to be observed in August:
How amazingly cramped the calendar is! In a month of 31 days, 24 are allocated to festivals. The other seven, for all one knows, might be days with important engagements, say meetings, discussions and the like. Knowing the nature of the Sangh Parivar, the festivals and the many vrats are understandable. What makes this delectable and spicy is the Vijaya Bharatam recipe on how to observe the Bharata Mata Pooja. Just reading it will show to the reader the ulterior motive of such celebrations and the misappropriation of the Mother India as a Hindu woman.
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