There was a time when the lives of Indians used to revolve a lot around festivals.
It is but an undeniable fact that as a secular country, the number of festivals celebrated in India is simply too high. From the festival of color – Holi during the month of March to the much celebrated Christmas in December and all that comes in between, we Indians have many excuses for splurging on revels.
But have our festivals become all about that?
In the last few years, a rising trend of commercialization has been felt in almost every major festival that the Indians celebrate.
The unabashed and spontaneous playing of colors during the festival of Holi, the mischievous pranks that were only allowed for that one day and the traditional snacks like are being replaced by Holi parties quite often. There can be heard recorded Bollywood music over and above the playful shouts of the people, and there are fusions and cocktails in place of the gujiyas and thandai.
A few months down the line, and the internet and social media are overflowed with advertisements and posters of brother-sister love, because, no point for guessing, Rakshabandhan is here. The television shows and clips where the brothers forget to get their sisters any gift and later somehow compensate it over the digital media. To be honest, many families perform the ritual nowadays over social platforms like Skype, even if the two participants are not continents apart. As much as that is convenient, it somehow ends up being a bit impersonal, doesn’t it?
Soon the month of October comes and the whole country gears up for the big festivals of Navratri and Diwali. These two have set a whole new bar of getting commercialized in the crowd of so many. The advertisements start from a month before and do not end until almost the next year.
The Bengali version of Navratri, called Durga Puja is the most waited and special occasion for the Bengalis. It was always a big deal for the different organizers to compete to win the prizes given away by companies for various aspects of the whole event. But of late, the goddess and her children are taking a back seat while the flexes of sponsors are more visible than decorations of the pandals.
A few years back, a certain incident involving a gigantic idol made of cement in one of the popular pujas in the city of Kolkata led to a massacre and ultimately authorities had to intervene and seal the grounds. This was nothing but a promotional gimmick by the title sponsor and exactly in this way, the traditional old charm of the festival is slowly evaporating and being replaced.
During Diwali, the online sales start soon and everyone’s email inboxes get spammed with numerous offers and coupons and vouchers from the online retail giants.
And for those who still want to step out of the house to do their festive shopping, the offline stores have their entrances hidden behind a decorative gate made of balloons and the life-size cutouts of public figures selling their products. From apparels to electronics and definitely jewelry, everyone is part of the race; and so well-trained are their marketing and sales recruits that they almost always manage to convince you to buy that washing machine you probably do not need. All you have to do is a step in the cool, air-conditioned shop.
Whether this change in how we celebrate our festivals occurred due to excessive commercialization or digitalization or people simply kept evolving in their ways of celebrating, following nature’s rule is a matter of debate. But the true story is, it has left the festivals hollow and the people detached.
The pujas are less about devotion and more about whose idol is the biggest or whose lighting is the brightest. The festivities are becoming excuses for spending an infinite amount of money on the gifts and zero amount of time on their recipients.
The more personal and homely festivals like Rakshabandhan and Bhaiduj are also not left behind.
This can easily raise a question which sounds something like this – so do our lives revolve around festivals, or we make the festivals our lives?
A complicated question and it probably has a more complicated answer. But whatever it is, it is the truth.
There are brighter synthetic colors available in the market for Holi, and the street-lightings during Diwali are getting shinier, and the lights on the Christmas tree are getting brighter and more stylish every passing year.
Even the incense sticks used are also modernized to give brighter flames.
It always feels good to see our festivals getting brighter and brighter. But aren’t they getting a bit colorless?