Ram Navami to Hanuman Jayanti: Here’s why Hindu festivals face wave of attacks
After the advent of Narendra Modi in 2014, with a resurgence of Hindu nationalism, the attacks on Hindu festivals have become a lot more orchestrated and at different levels
Everyday Hinduness has very few overt markers. Most Hindus go about their lives without praying several times a day, occupying public spaces to do so, visiting temples often, playing sermons or calls for union on loudspeakers, or wearing tilak and suchlike. There are no rituals like circumcision, sporting beards and wearing clothes in a certain way to set Hindus apart from the rest of humanity or burn the imprint of the community into their collective memory.
Most Hindus would be indistinguishable in a cosmopolitan crowd.
Then what brings the community together?
What makes Manipur live for centuries with Gujarat, or Kashmir with Kerala, or Bengal with Maharashtra as a civilisation and a nation?
What makes people of such diversity stand up to defend this sacred geography in a war?
What binds India?
The cultural and spiritual oneness of this ancient land is the superglue of this nation and civilisation. That cultural unity of their Indian people is Hinduness, whichever religion one may practice.
And this Hinduness is manifested not in imposed oddities on groups and individuals. The expression of this oneness happens through festivals. The collective joy and the invisible spiritual vibrations of festivals bring India together, lift its mental health, give it infinite resilience to survive invasions, genocide and the most brutal persecution and rise in glory again. No tyrant has been able to decapitate the spirit of festivals in Indians. Not that they haven’t tried.
Muslim invaders and Mughals specifically made it a point to destroy thousands of temples, which were the centres not just of spirituality but also of learning, trade, and various other social, cultural and economic activities. From Noakhali riots of 1946 which started on Kojagari Lakshmi Puja to Comilla violence of 2021 during Durga Puja, Bangladeshi Hindus have suffered uncountable attacks during their festivals.
The latest wave of attacks on Hindu festivals across states is no different. There is a thousand-year continuity in the thought process. Hit that which brings Hindus and India together: their celebrations. Hit their festivals which bring to life their universe-embracing, spiritual and peaceful way of life. Leave them with nothing to draw joy and unity from.
The smoke from the petrol bombs, clanging of swords and blood on stones from Ram Navami last week have not yet faded and we have the wanton violence and attack on a Hanuman Jayanti procession at Delhi’s Jahangirpuri. Again, swords were out, the police were shot at, and stones and glass were thrown at the procession.
No riot happens without planning. Who are the brains and moneybags behind these attacks? Who are they? Are they from outside this country or within? That is for the police and investigating agencies to find out.
But is it a coincidence that after the advent of Narendra Modi in 2014, with a resurgence of Hindu nationalism, the attacks on Hindu festivals have become a lot more orchestrated and at different levels?
There is raw mob violence. Then there is judicial activism against firecrackers on Diwali or bull races during Jallikattu. There is social activism against playing with watercolours during Holi. Influencers and celebs, who do nothing with money or PR mileage, get activated before Hindu festivals to run these down.
Clearly, Hindu festivals are very important for faceless forces working against India. Because that is one sure way to break the joie de vivre and the binding spirit of this nation.
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