Diwali celebrations, the meaningful way
It is around this time every year when Diwali is round the corner that every Indian finds faced with the question: are you a traditionalist or a pragmatist? It is time to weigh the banes and boons of rituals we practice and their effects on our health and environment, and to discover new ways to do old things better.
We can’t run away from the fact that crackers and fireworks cause harm to health and environment no matter how hard we try to justify using them by invoking ‘tradition’ or ‘concern’ for the many who work in the industry as supportive arguments.
Air pollution worsens several-fold around Diwali. Levels of noxious gases such as sulphurdioxide go up by 200 percent. Crackers spew nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, fumes and pollutants to astonishing levels, triggering smoke and fog, as the AQI (Air Quality Index) crosses 400 in many north Indian cities.
The air-pollutants cause smarting of eyes, soreness of the throat, cough and wheezing. It is a bad time for those with bronchial asthma as they often come down with acute attacks at this time. For some, this is the time when they have their first attacks of asthma.
“Traditionalists” might be surprised to know that when Lord Ram returned to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana and the Deepawali celebrations began, there were no fireworks or crackers then. \These were discovered by the Chinese many centuries later and found their way to India with the Mughals. It is therefore a tradition that got “acquired” much later.
Then, how can we celebrate Diwali meaningfully?
Studies have shown that families and friends who fast, feast, pray and celebrate festivals together, more often stay together! Family rituals involve symbolic communication and help generate feelings of ‘this is who we are’ as a group. Traditions also provide continuity in meaning across generations. There is often an emotional imprint where the individual may replay it in memory to recapture some of the positive experience.
If you want to try a new experience this Diwali, here are a few ideas you could consider:
1.Collect all the sweets and eats that you receive as gifts, and throw a Diwali lunch or snack party at an orphanage or slum school. You will cherish the smiles of the kids for the rest of your life!
2.Try making fruit salads as eats for guests, rather than the high calorie sweets from the market. Your guests will remember you as a role model.
Diwali, the foremost festival of most Indians should therefore be celebrated with great emotional passion. These are the occasions that we tend to remember in life, help us acquire our sense of identity, and make us realize that there is meaning beyond work and duty in life.
Wish you a happy Deepawali that lights up your hearts and lives!