Imagine living your life as a monotonous circle, imitating the hands of a clock day in and out over the years. It’s nothing but a reflection of a life that is insipid, meaningless & futile. It takes little to wonder that the need for festivals was born out of this urge to break the mundane existence of life and with it, its share of grief, pain & agony. As long as human civilization has existed, so has the human need to celebrate festivals. Festivals are an integral part of human society and have since time immemorial had a wide range of social, religious, political and other significant connotations. But why and how do festivals carry a deeper significance for the human condition? And more importantly, what is the relationship between festivals and the happiness index and more pertinently on the health parameters of individuals?
Traditionally festivals are celebrated to mark the importance of a particular day that is usually associated with some significance. More than often, festivals usually involve some ritual or the other & has multiple layers of meaning attached to it. But more important is the fact that festivals mark a day or days in the calendar, where people celebrate life, forgetting their sorrows & struggles even if for a short period of time. It gives people the chance to come together as a human society, otherwise divided by the barriers of religious, caste & class divisions. It acquires a special significance, especially in the context of a pluralistic society like India where people from different faiths & walks of life reside together. As a socialist, secular democratic republic, India has always celebrated the multiplicity of festivals, despite their social or religious identity. Festivals become a reminder for us to pause and reflect on the possibility of the idea of a unified existence. As we are aware that community bonding is one of the pillars that paves the way for happiness that is shared & hence multiplies with time. In contrast, a society that does not celebrate festivals where inclusivity is maintained, only a certain section of society acknowledges that festivals have a separatist streak. As such the happiness though shared is secluded pertaining only to the members of that particular belief system.
Besides the coming together of people as a unit during festivals, it also makes room for people to reflect on the spiritual or other meanings underlying the celebration of festivals. Even people who may not be particularly inclined towards any particular religious beliefs or rituals, may come together and celebrate in their own ways because at the end of the day, it is the simple human emotions of celebrating life that matters.
In our lives, health & sickness often go hand in hand. None is spared from its trap. And yet even the one who has been ill, still look up to festival with a glimmer in their eyes, in the hope that they would forget their pain & strife. Of course, not all are lucky. Some may be bed- ridden or handicapped to physically enjoy a festival, and as such festivals remind us of our privilege and remind us to include even those who are sick.
Festivals are a time, when for that period we forget about how much calories we intake. It’s as if we get a respite from all restrictions and impositions & grant us the chance to enjoy life, forgetting our worries for those few days. Of course, the key to untarnished happiness often lies in knowing where to draw the line & set our own boundaries while enjoying at the same time.
At VCCC, senior oncologist, Dr. Vikash Kumar Agarwal has always been trying to showcase how we can derive meaning and positivity from the celebration of different festivals. His message has always been to look deep inside oneself and not just fall for the mere show of glam associated with celebration of festivals. For him, festivals can be celebrated even in its gesture of simplicity, but one must not forget to grab the happiness that festivals bring with it. The most important reason as to why festivals are important in the social fabric of life is that only when we as individuals or as a society learn to be happy and positive, can one measure a balance of mental & physical health. Because at the end of the day, it must be holistic health care that we are aiming for at the end of the day.