Thursday, October 2, 2014

The magic of the 'dhak'...

It's 'Durga Ashtami' today...If you ask me what 'Ashtami' is, all that I will be able to tell you, without 'Google search' coming to my rescue, is that it's the second big day of Durga puja, a festival that's celebrated with a lot of fervor in the part of India I come from. I don't know how many of you have heard the Durga puja 'dhak'( I have attached a sound clip at the end of this post). It is a traditional form of playing a specific type of drum during the pujas, as 'aarti' of the deity is performed. It's the part of Durga puja I love the most and it still gives me goose bumps. The resounding beats of the 'dhak' bring back memories of family get togethers, happy faces, beautiful, carefree childhood days and fills me with an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia and optimism!

I spent the formative years of my life in one of the most beautiful, picturesque hill stations of India...Shillong. While I hear it's changed a lot and is not the same any more, nevertheless the memories of Shillong I have are indelible...the charm of living in the land of mountains and hills in the clouds...the serenity associated with the whistling sound of the wind blowing through the pine trees...the calm that is brought in by the tip tapping sound of rain on the rooftop...the most delicious Indo Chinese food...and a lot more :)

Associated with these memories of Shillong are memories of those annual trips that we made to our grandparents' home in Guwahati during Durga puja (around September/October) every year. There was always a lot of fervor associated with the celebration of this festival, primarily because it was an occasion when the entire family got together...dressing up in new clothes, hanging out with the cousins at home and in my grandmom's maternal home(where they had a family pandal and
puja by the mighty Brahmaputra), chit chatting, playing with toy water pistols, pandal hopping...this was a once a year tradition that was a much 'looked forward to' period for the entire family. The few questions we had about the purpose of the puja too were answered very non-specifically by the parents and grandparents, highlighting only the good associated with each aspect of Indian mythology! Of course, that was the era before  google, wikipedia and the broader internet. So we, the kiddos, were pretty happy with the answers we got, given that they were all 'feel good' explanations:)

I have grown up to be a  non-'traditionalist', though...I guess I would be better off qualifying that statement because a statement like this has the potential for generating a lot of arguments...I do have immense respect for cultural and religious traditions...I love the camaraderie that different forms of cultural and religious traditions evoke...let's just say I don't like following traditions for the sake of tradition. However I have to admit, I am often guilty of following or not following a tradition/ritual just to make someone near and dear to me happy or just to revel in the sense of camaraderie that following a  ritual evokes.

Having said that, I am not an athiest. Neither am I an agnostic. I have faith. I believe in God. I pray. Is that possible without being a traditionalist? I believe it is, because I am and I always have been!

With a three year old in tow now, and that too someone who has a phlethora of questions all the time...why's and how's about everything on earth... these days I often find myself 'googling' for answers specific to religious and cultural rituals and traditions, more so with the onset of the Indian holiday season.Given the enormous options children have these days of finding out information,
I really want to make sure I articulate concepts associated with traditions and rituals in a way that doesn't make my little one doubt me as she grows up:)

I have found though that more often than not it's tough providing a logical/rational explanation for a tradition or ritual! The fanfare and celebratory part of Indian traditions and rituals aside, the only problem I have is when I dive deeper into the origins of some of the  traditions and  rituals (across cultures). The origins don't always lend themselves well to either my mind or my heart, given that a lot of the time, they inherently endorse the sense of entitlement of one gender over the other or one section of the society over another, encourage superstitions, validate the possibility of wiping away
conscious wrong doings/sins with the performance of a ritual!

Having grown up in a family that's very diverse and widely cross pollinated (for lack of a better term) across cultures, religions and nations, and also having always had a very diverse set of friends, I have been exposed to the traditions of diverse cultures, religions and nations. I don't ever remember being explicitly or implicitly being coerced to follow any specific ritual, though. Neither do I have any intention to enforce anything on my children.

Having said that, I do wish that I could fill Raya's life with the kind of memories I have of these festivities, because the memories are what have real meaning for me than any deep rooted meaning associated with the origin of the festivities.

We visited a a couple of Durga Puja celebrations here in the Northern Virginia area last week. At the end of a session's puja, the aarti and the 'dhak' gave me goose bumps, like it always has and took me back to those days when we ran around pandals with cousins and basked in the feeling of being together. It had nothing to do with the tradition itself. But it had everything to do with the people and memories associated with the tradition.

Today all that I wish for is the wisdom to be able to help Raya learn to revel in the feeling of wellness, optimism, magic and hope that some of these traditions evoke , without feeling burdened by lack of logic associated with the origin of a lot of them!:)

Leaving you with a sound clip of the traditional "Durga puja" dhak!! On this day of MahaAshtami, may you feel uplifted and hopeful for the year that lies ahead as the resounding beats of the 'dhak' reach a crescendo!


NetworkedBlogsViaFacebook said...

Dipanjan Das, Kalyani Das, Moonmee DC, Jan Goswami, Dehu Rajkhowa, Tapati Sharma, Preetam Rajkhowa,
Chaitali Ghosalkar, Pallav Chatterjee

IndivineViaIndiBlogger said...