Notes re Festival

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October 7th 2008
Published: October 26th 2008
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We initially thought that at the beginning of the trip, we were in the midst of the Duwali festival. But, it later became ambiguous what festival this was. In Mumbai and Nagpur, we were told that it's Duwali but in Delhi, we were told that it was the Festival of Lights, and that Duwali is something else. In any event, the festival seemed to span about the first 7-8 days of our trip. That's one of the things about Hinduism that makes it so confusing for Westerners. There are enormous regional variations, and the same thing may have a different name in different places and different things may have the same name in other places. This is also true of the gods and goddesses. Hinduism is technically monotheistic ("Lord Brahma", at least in Delhi), but Hindus believe that he has numerous forms (3 principally) and I think some of which have reincarnations.

It's different than the other major religions in that there is no prophetic figure. It is a very ancient religion, likely with roots for as long as people have populated India. There are several religious texts, which are themselves very old (i.e. well into the B.C. years) but these merely scribed an oral history that long preceded them.

Anyway, regarding the festival, in Mumbai, we didn't notice much during the day, except three things: (1) some men wore colored paint like bindis, which we were told meant that they had been to the temple that day, (2) there were huge lines at some temples (i.e wait 9 hours in line lines), and (3) we saw at least one temporary sidewalk shrine. At night, however, the streets were very crowded. On the day that we went to the Leopold Cafe, some families were riding around in foil covered carriages, and we passed in front of a parade, headed by what looked like people representing a King or God and his wife. A guide we asked later had no idea who they may have been, but I'd guess Lord Rama and Sita. Sita is considered the embodiment of perfect womanhood. From what little I know, the virtues include that she was very devoted to her husband and family, she urged her husband not to kill without provocation, and she disavows revenge, and she repents when she errs.

In the countryside, we noticed that every town had a little temporary temple. At night in Pench, we heard recorded (?) music blaring from the temple in the early night and then chanting until very late (sometime between 2 and 4 a.m.).


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