The Paradox of 1st January and Hindu Nationalism

Published: Tuesday, Jan 01,2013, 21:53 IST
why celebrate 1st January, hindu nationalism, indian new year theory, gregorian calender, sri aurbindo

A new question has come. The origin of this question comes from the conflict in the philosophy of celebrating New Year. The only way in which a conflict can be dealt, to my mind, is by not limiting the question but by expanding it to all dimensions and discussing it in the spirit that is coherent with the teachings of founders of our civilization and that is how I propose to deal this question. It is indeed a fact that no country in the world was invaded more than India but at the same time it also needs to be emphasized that no country in the world could have ever sustained these many invasions and yet retained its originality and supremacy as did India. What is it that is so special and exclusive to India? Have you ever asked yourself? Have you ever sat down and mulled over the DNA of India, the spirit of Sanatan Dharma, the principle idea of Hinduism, the foundation of one of the strongest civilizations of the world? Sri Aurobindo, one of the most feared freedom fighters of India who later ended up being one of the greatest spiritual leaders, says-"India saw from the beginning- and, even in her ages of reason and her age of increasing ignorance, she never lost hold of the insight, -that life cannot be rightly seen in the sole light, cannot be perfectly lived in the sole power of its externalities".

In other words, the externalities are important but then these have to be coherent with the central idea of Hinduism and spirituality-Higher consciousness and love without any discrimination in the name of caste, creed, and race or for that matter religion. Saying that only when one wears an ochre robe, puts trinity on his head, renounces worldly life or for that matter ridicules people of other religion for whatever reasons is no trait of Hinduism. It is but a complete distortion of the original idea. Any effort in a direction that limits one to a specific date, a specific term, a specific belief is not a step towards glorifying Hinduism but towards throttling its central idea of beauty in its multitude. India had always had this unique feature of embracing all that comes to it and then transforming it in the light of love, truth and higher consciousness.

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The idea of not celebrating 1st January as New Year day is one thing, Idea of celebrating Vaisakhi [for Punjabis], Gudi Padwa [Marathis], Diwali [Gujaratis], Bihu [Assamese], Vishu [Tamils], Ugadi [Kannadiga and telugus], Jur Shital [Maithils] as new year is another thing. And, idea of maintaining a safe distance from those who celebrate a new year on 1st January as per Gregorian calendar or for that matter ridiculing them with absurd, asinine comments in reply to wishes coming from pure heart for your own well-being is another and completely repelling with central theme of Hinduism. Hatred begets hatred. Hatred is the root of all evils. The core of spirituality or for that matter Yoga is to burn this hatred and transform one’s nature. Since when wishes, vibrations, love, prayers began to have religion? Is it to teach these dogmas that Vivekananda suffered whole life wandering from East to West? One need to take some time, sit back in dark and introspect if this is what one’s conscience says or is One being ignorant to the appeal of soul. In any case, if we aspire to spread Hinduism with this hyperbolic spirit, I am sure; Hinduism will no more remain Hinduism but will become Islam or Christianity where one’s idea of God gets limited to a set of dead rules and conventions.

So far my observation goes, I guess, the major concern of people espousing this idea of not celebrating 1st January as New Year day comes from following facts: 1. Hindus in India have been constantly suppressed and they need to conceive ways so that they can again stand unite and become a force to reckon with. 2. Festivals like Bihu, Gudi Padwa, Ugadi etc. which have conventionally been celebrated as New Year in India in different regions carry more cultural values and help people develop a deeper understanding of their own culture 3. Given the style of celebrating 1st January with alcohol and night-outs and loud music, it often becomes a nuisance and definitely it is not as per the basic tenets of Indian culture.

Now, let us take these points one by one. Let us say we do not celebrate 1st January as New Year day. That said, are we going to have one festival, one date across India to celebrate New Year? Can one ask that everyone should celebrate only Bihu as New Year day? Will Marathis or Punjabis or for that matter a Tamil accept? There lies the answer. We cannot have one New Year day for all and that said, we should not even aspire to have one since it is this diversity which makes India a unique country. Hence, saying that if one quits celebrating 1st January, Hindus will get united is ignorance. Coming to the fact of developing a deeper understanding of culture, celebrating 1st January never automatically implies giving up our own traditional New Year festivals. On the contrary, it can be taken positively to add one more day of visiting a temple, seeking blessings, sending positive vibrations and well wishes to friends and relatives. There is something unique that I find in this 1st January. It is this that it can have nationwide acceptability and since it doesn’t conflict with any other festival, it can be one such date where whole of India can together take pledge to make a new beginning and a National Consciousness can be evolved which is not the case when different regions of India celebrate New Year in different seasons. As regards to alcohol and loud music and other nuisance that people associate, it must be condemned. However, the question then shifts from whether one should celebrate 1st January to how should one celebrate 1st January. If we accept facts as they stand, we will discover that New Year is as chaotic as Holi or for that matter Diwali. Reason behind this chaos is our increasing obsession with peripheral things such as crackers, alcohol, night-outs etc. and drifting away from the central idea of Spirituality. If Hinduism is to be revived, it must give up ignorance and get back to its roots-Spirituality. If alcohol is one reason why 1st January should not be celebrated, how about Holi?

ramakrishna paramhansa People who have so much to speak about the historical facts associated with 1st January coming from Julius Caesar, Jesus and others should also go back and find out some facts associated with 1st January about Indian saints. No spiritual leader had ever had as much influence on world as much as Bhagwaan RamaKrishna Paramhansa had and it was on this day in 1886 when Bhagwaan Sri RamaKrishna Paramhansa went into a trance and granted enlightenment to all his disciples.

The followers of Sri RamaKrishna Paramhansa celebrate this day as Kalpatru day. Kalpatru, taken from Kalpavriksha, as per Hindu mythology, is one of the 5 trees of Heaven that is supposed to fulfill all desires. The other four trees are: Mandara, Sanatana, Parijata and Harichandana.

This is how story goes about the great Bhagwaan Sri RamaKrishna Paramhansa as quoted by Swami Nikhilananda:- On January 1, 1886, it was about 3 O’clock in the afternoon that Some thirty lay disciples were in the hall or sitting about under the trees. Sri Ramakrishna said to Girish (Ghosh), 'Well Girish, what have you seen in me, that you proclaim me before everybody as an Incarnation of God?' Girish was not the man to be taken by surprise. He knelt before the Master and said with folded hands, 'What can an insignificant person like myself say about the One whose glory even sages like Vyasa and Valmiki could not adequately measure?' The Master was profoundly moved. He said: 'what more shall I say? I bless you all. Be illumined! He touched them all, and each received an appropriate benediction. Each of them, at the touch of the Master, experienced ineffable bliss. Some laughed, some wept, some sat down to meditate, some began to pray. Some saw light, some had visions of their Chosen Ideals, and some felt within their bodies the rush of spiritual power. In the words of Swami Saradananda:- Those words of profound blessing, untouched by the slightest tinge of selfishness, directly entered the devotees' hearts where they raised high billows of bliss. They forgot time and space, forgot the disease of the Master and forgot their previous determination not to touch him till he recovered, and had the immediate feeling that sympathizing with their misery, and heart overflowing with compassion, had come down to them from heaven and called them affectionately to Him for protection, like a mother sheltering her children against all ills.

Sri Aurobindo says on BhagwaanRamaKrishna Paramhansa and Vivekananda: What was Ramakrishna? God manifest in a human being; but behind there is God in His infinite impersonality and His universal Personality. And what was Vivekananda? A radiant glance from the eye of Shiva; but behind him is the divine gaze from which he came and Shiva himself and Brahma and Vishnu and OM all-exceeding.

Today, as India aspires to reclaims its past glories and Hindu nationalists yearn for the revival of Hinduism, can there be a better way than this to find coherence between the east and west? If at all Hinduism has to be revived today, can there be a better hero than Vivekananda? 12th of January is coming near and India, especially nationalist Hindus are all set to celebrate it as Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary. Isn’t that as per Gregorian calendar? Isn’t that a paradox? Fact is this that this calendar has already found acceptance by all our spiritual giants and we cannot do away with it but transform it. Vivekananda says: Superstition is our great enemy, but bigotry is worse.

Author : Mihir Jha, Follow the writer

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