Celebrations on Earth and in Heaven

India is blessed by many avatars, religions and festivals that reflect the unity of the human race. The Gods in heaven must be celebrating, but we must resist any attempt to stoke differences by vested interests, says OSWALD PEREIRA

April is a blessed month. It’s a month when the Gods in the heavens above, I imagine, are celebrating their prime creation ― the human race. Actually and logically, there must be one heaven where the Gods live together in harmony. I can’t imagine the Gods fighting for supremacy or one-upmanship like we do here on earth, in different countries ― and sometimes in one country ― quarrelling over whose religion is better; yours or mine.

April is a month to take the pledge of unity to banish the thought of yours and mine ― and replace it with ours. Didn’t the avatars who descended on earth teach us unity, love and brotherhood, and sisterhood, of course?

In the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father, we pray, “Your kingdom come; your will be done; on earth as in heaven.” That’s praying for a heaven on earth. Lord Ram’s kingdom actualised the concept of a heaven on earth … Ram Rajya is a possibility that we must strive for … where we are all united, living in love and harmony, irrespective of who we are, or where we came from.

In the blessed month of April, I can really see that happening … here in India. A land blessed by so many avatars, religions and festivals that reflect the unity of the human race. We as a nation are home to so many religions, coexisting peacefully and festivals shaking hands with each other, like bosom pals.

On April 4 was Easter that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. On April 13 (yesterday) was Gudi Padwa, the Hindu New Year. On this very day commences the Chaitra Navratris, which spans nine nights, dedicated to the nine different forms of Goddess Durga.

Ugadi or Yugadi, also known as Samvatsarādi, is the New Year’s Day for the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. In Assam, the New Year goes by the colourful name Rongali Bihu.

On the same day (April 13) was Baisakhi, celebrated to mark the beginning of the Sikh New Year and also known as the spring harvest festival. On April 13 was also the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan; it is believed that the holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad during the month.

The bonanza never ends. For, on April 14 in 1891 was born Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, considered the father of the Indian Constitution. The birthday celebrations to my mind is akin to a political feast ― of equality, democracy and freedom. Since 2015, the day is observed as an official public holiday throughout India. As Dr Ambedkar struggled for equality throughout his life, his birthday is celebrated as ‘Equality Day’ in India.

We are all waiting for Ram Navami on April 21, the most celebrated festival in the whole of India, which will mark the birthday of Lord Ram.

Dr B R Ambedkar

Such a multitude of festivals born from different religions, celebrated with joy and devotion, is so special and unique to our country. The Gods must be truly happy that there is unity in such diversity ― that their creation is doing them proud. This is not to gloss over the differences and polarisation that do crop up from time to time. That in my opinion is stoked by politicians and is an aberration, which we should discourage with our heart and soul.

I remember in my childhood in my village, Kolbad, my place of birth, in Thane (the place now is a highly developed and urbanised), loudspeakers used to blare from atop an ancient banyan tree, celebrating every Hindu festival. Behind the banyan tree was a small Shiva temple.

Thirty metres away from the banyan tree was a white Cross in the centre of the road, where Christians used to offer prayers. April-May were special months for prayers, when all Christians collected in front of the cross late evening to chant the rosary everyday (a form of devotion in which five or fifteen decades of Hail Marys are repeated, each decade preceded by an Our Father and followed by a Glory Be.)

As soon as the congregation was seen collecting for the rosary at the cross, without even asking, the loudspeakers would be switched off.

In my place of birth, the cross, the temple and the banyan tree still stand near each other ― live testimony to unity and harmony. The loudspeakers still blare. The rosaries continue (thought they have been temporarily suspended in these Covid times). Urbanisation has not changed mindsets. Harmony and brotherhood continue to flourish.

The Gods living in one heaven above, surely, must be looking down smiling, blissfully. Let’s continue to live happily.

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