Yesterday was Diwali, perhaps the biggest Hindu festival of the year, and certainly the most fire-cracker intensive. It sounded like a war zone in my neighborhood last night, and the air was thick was the smoke of burst crackers. The smoke crept through my balcony and entered my bedroom as well; viewed from the other side of the room, my curtains started to look distinctly hazy. And the fire-cracker bombardment continued. Continue reading
Dussehra was two week ago, but my ears are still ringing. Dussehra is – yes – one more religious festival (I told you this was the season). Perhaps even more than other popular Indian festivals, it is marked by extreme noisemaking. Dussehra celebrates the victory over the God-man Ram (hero of the Sanskrit epic the Ramayana) over the evil demon/intellectual Ravan. In festivals all over India, huge effigies of Ravan are burned. I had a front-row seat at one of these Ravan burnings, and no one had told me that, these days, the effigies are filled with dangerous amounts of firecrackers. Thus, the ringing ears. Continue reading
September 2nd marked the festival of Krishna Janmashtami, a.k.a. Krishna Jayanti, a.k.a. Krishna’s birthday. For those of you not keeping track of the Hindu pantheon (it can be an exhausting pursuit), a brief primer: Krisha is widely worshiped as the eighth avatar, or incarnation, of Vishnu, while Vishnu himself is commonly portrayed as part of the trimurty (or trinity) of great Hindu gods, along with Shiva and Brahma. (I use these hedging adverbs – “widely,” “commonly,” etc. – because of the bewildering complexity and malleability of Hindu tradition.) Continue reading
Ganesh Chaturthi, a celebration of the elephant-headed Hindu god, is in full swing. In honor of the Ganesh festival (which began on September 11 and runs until September 22), a couple items:
– A article I wrote about the 2008 festival has finally found its way to online publication
– Some stunning pictures of the aftereffects of the festival are online here
Ganapati Bappa Moriya!
Mystical India: a land of saints and sages, where religion reigns supreme.
Many scholars, particularly Indian scholars, hate this picture of India. And with good reason. The British used the stereotype of the religious (and therefore quite irrational) Indian in order to justify colonial rule. The superstitious, God-obsessed natives clearly could not run an effective government, said the Brits; we’re doing them a service by running one for them. Of course, the British conveniently ignored or marginalized India’s rich scientific, philosophical and political traditions. Continue reading