A Gandhian Dussera
This year Dussera and Gandhi Jayanti are on the same day. The latter is a national holiday meant for celebrating the birthday of the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi. In deference to the philosophy of the father of the nation, we have a day’s ban on the sale of liquor. Besides, there is no sale of meat today, just to promote Gandhiji’s belief in non-violence.
Dussera is the day to commemorate the victory of good over evil. It was on this day in some mythological aeon that goddess Durga killed the demon named Mahisasur and made the universe a safer place for gods and humans to live. In a way, when we celebrate Dussera, we remember, nay glorify how violence helped goddess stop violence. Quite un-Gandhian at that! There are temples even nowadays where the goddess is offered animal sacrifices, despite the spurt of public opinion against this. People take non-vegetarian food on this day and this is considered to be in conformity with the religious norms. At least this is what is prevalent in my part of India.
So, there is something ideologically contrasting about the coincidence—a saintly message of non-violence brought face to face with the divine symbol of violence. Then how people would reconcile this?
Let me just look around for the ground reality, say what is actually happening here today. Very few are more than casually aware of Gandhi Jayanti today and many, especially the chaps working as government servants, smart under their loss of a day’s holiday. Normally they would have got two day’s holidays had these two occasions came separately—Gandhi Jayanti on the October 2 and Dussera a day later.
It shows Dussera is higher in importance than Gandhi Jayanti, for the former is a religio-social function and the latter an official. Gandhi Jayanti would not give an occasion for new dress, delicious food, and familial togetherness like the other festival. Even politicians, always eager to talk to people, will come and participate in the incineration of the effigy of the demon king Ravan that will burst with dazzling fireworks. Come evening a politician, preferably a cabinet minister or the chief minister will do that in my locality to the merriment of the teeming crowd.
Lage Raho Munna Bhai is a film which shows that the world would treat you as a mad fellow if you practise Gandhism (Gandhigiri). Or, conversely, you have to be a crazy fellow to follow the tenets of Gandhiji. You may win victory after a long struggle, but that is immaterial.
So, where is time to relive Gandhi’s memory? And that too when the occasion falls on an important day like Dussera?
A. N. Nanda