Term Paper: Hindu Festivals: Manifestation

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[. . .] Furthermore, the importance of Ganesha festival is based on god relations also, where Ganesha is the 'unnatural' son of Shiva and Parvati, great Hindu gods. Through the intercession of Ganesha, Hindus are able to extend their prayers to Shiva or Vishnu. Thus, Ganesha acts as the mediator between the mortals and gods in Hinduism.

Other festivals that are celebrated in Hinduism is Krishna's birth, also called, krsna-jayanti. The Rama festival (Dassera), meanwhile, is a national holiday that commemorates the great hero of the Hindus, Rama, and his victory over his adversaries. Lastly, New Year's Day in Hinduism is celebrated to eliminate 'bad luck' and all the "burdens" that people had experienced during the previous year (Klostermaier, 1994:326-7). Celebrating Holi cleanses Hindus from these burdens, and a festivity is prepared to celebrate the 'cleansing' of Hindus from all evils and burdens of material life and world.

Conducting Hindu festivals require elaborate preparation, materially, physically, and spiritually. For the Hindus, festivals are not just a form of social interaction and religious commemoration of Hinduism, but also as an opportunity to bind humans to their gods, to have a moment where they can 'communicate' and extend their gratitude and ask for help to their gods. An example of a festival that is widely celebrated and grandiosely celebrated is the Ganesha festival. As the biggest Hindu festival, commemorating the Hindu god Ganesha involves preparing the temples for worship, production of murtis, or replica images of Ganesha, procession of the murti, and eventual 'cleansing' or divestiture of the "special status" of the Ganesha murti (Shattuck, 1999:84-5).

The process of producing the murti is perhaps the most difficult, yet, symbolically meaningful ritual conducted during the Ganesha festival. To prepare the murtis for the procession, Hindus make a clay murti of Ganesha, and upon production of this murti, households are required to purify each member (of the household/family) by ritual cleaning and bathing. However, although the production of the Ganesha murti is a household activity, only the head of the family, usually a male, is the "main actor" of the ritual. The head of family carries the murti to its procession, and conducts the last rites to it upon the closing of the Ganesha festival. This last ritual conducted is characterized as follows: "... To divest the image of its special status... The patron symbolically closes the eyes of the image and the clay no longer contains the living presence of Ganesha. The family then takes the image to a nearby water source and immerses it... It returns to its formless state, just as the deity returns to his primordial cosmic state" (Shattuck, 1999:86).

These symbolic rituals are conducted in order to instill within each Hindu's psyche that the process of creating, processing/parading, and eventual dissolution of the Ganesha murti to clay form once again illustrates the life of Hindus. The festival celebrates the birth, life, death, and re-birth of Hindus, the processes humans goes through in the material state (life on earth). Upon death, Hindus faithful to the teachings of Hinduism are re-born under the cosmic state, where there timelessness is present.

Apart from the spiritual significance of Hindu festivals, these collective worshipping of Hindu gods are also a form of social, cultural, and political organizations. Socially, Hindu festivals promote the value of unity of the society, where each member of the society experiences "temporary religious fulfillment, or to achieve success in a specific undertaking" (Zelliot, 1988:85). In the political domain, festivals function as a "demonstration of India's democratic ideology and commitment to social progress," where the Indian society and culture is preserved and used to counter the effects of colonialism and subjugation to foreign power. Lastly, as a cultural form of organization, Hindu festivals are also opportunities where other aspects of Indian and Hindu culture are used for worship, such as literature (folklores and religious texts), music, and dance, and other forms of artistic expression (91). Thus, more than a religious ritual and collective form of worship; Hindu festivals are also social, political, and cultural manifestations of Hinduism's rich heritage to human civilization.

Bibliography

Klostermaier, K. (1994). A Survey of Hinduism. NY: New York Press.

Hinduism." Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 2002.

Shattuck, C. (1999). Hinduism. London: Taylor & Francis.

Zelliot, E. (1988). The Experience of Hinduism: Essays… [END OF PREVIEW]

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