Thursday, January 18, 2018
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dussehra allahabad

Vijaydashmi, the climax of the Dussehra celebrations has arrived. And Durgapuja festivities have also reached their peak. On this auspicious occasions we greet all citizens a happy Dussehra and Durgapuja. As is well known, the Dussehra and Durgapuja celebrations will reach their peak and climax today. The streets will be  jam-packed this evening—nay, the whole night  till dawn-- to watch the Pajawa and Patharchatti chowkies as also the alluring Shringaar Chowkies.  You will intermittently be listening to the  chanting of ‘Jai Sita Ram’ slogans. Devotional songs on loudspeakers will add to the religious fervor .  The Durga Puja Pandals will be seen lost in spiritual ecstasy, with devotees making preparations for the departure of the Mother. Both the spectacular feasts in color would indeed be an unforgettable experience to watch. 

As we have noted, illuminations have had a major role to play in making the shows a big success. If one views the image of Durga one feels transported into heavenly surroundings, as if we were   being blessed by gods and goddesses. It is interesting to see how the lap-top generation is also being attracted with the help of technology. Through multi-media display and artistically decorated picture-boards, the devotees  have been enlightened on   various  facets of  the celebrations which hitherto were being explained by the priests to curious youngsters . 

 And so far as Ramdal processions are concerned, like every year  the roads are well lighted.  The chowkies, twinkling with bewitching decorative  bulbs, allure and  attract attention, accompanied by devotional music. They are all enchanting wonders  resulting from the confluence of spiritualism  and  technology . Unfortunately, this year the city has been badly battered by the Ravans of inefficiency who just failed to set right our broken, pot-holed roads; and where the work was completed in great hurry, there too the Ravans were exposed when newly tarred surfaces caved in. I would like you to forget that for a moment  by taking you back  by over 100 years and  give some details about what happened  over a century ago. But before I do that I must state that it was some  200 years ago when these Ram Dal tableaux first made their appearance. Mahant Baba Hathiram ( a noted priest of his time and who became the Pajawa founder)  would then carry  two kids attired as Lord Ram and Lakshman on his shoulders from a temple in Shahganj to another temple in Attarsuiya to enable the devotees to have a glimpse of their beloved epic heros. The kids would also participate in Ramlila near Ansuiya temple.

I now take you back by   102 years and reproduce extracts from a report published in the then newly-founded English daily by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, ‘The Leader’ on Page 6 of   its issue dated October 17, 1910.  There seems to be no difference between our feelings of reverence today and those of our ancestors over 100 years ago. So wrote The Leader: ‘ It(dussehra) is amongst us as the pastime of the people; it is amongst us as the spirit of the past entering into the spirit of the present. It is the legacy of India,  the inheritance of the ancient Aryan civilization. There do you find the old world Hindus! Their message to the modern millions of this ancient land! Such are the fairs and festivals of India, such like none other. It has nothing of the love and labor, the peace and goodwill of Raksha Bandhan. It has nothing of the luxurious abundance, the glorious magnificence of the Deepawali; it has nothing of the happy-go-lucky, nothing of the mad merry carnival spirit of the Holika Dahan. It is a day of victory, of triumph and rejoicing, of a mighty march over forests and oceans to a sure and certain goal. It is also a day of devotion, devotion  to duty, which defies even death’.  The spirit is the same but so far as lavishness and grandeur is concerned, I think that this  occasion has marched ahead of all other festivals mentioned in the report.
The newspaper did mention about the ‘gaslight glare’ which must have been there when darkness engulfed the area. People apparently were more comfortable in watching the chowkies before sunset. The report does not say so but the implication is there. While giving details about the two Ramdals – of  Hathiram group and  Beniram groups in Chowk, the report mentions that the  Hathiram group took out the procession first. But by as late as 5.30pm it could reach the Kotwali. The Beniram party’s Ramdal procession started round 6pm when shadows of the night had already started creeping in.    The report about the second Ramdal says: ’When the “chowkies” began to appear, it had unfortunately become dark. Credit is due to the managers of the second procession for having improvised some lighting arrangements but many of the chowkies moved in darkness. It is to be noted that the mistake of this year will never again be repeated, and that the procession on which so much money is spent like water every year, will always be brought out well before the shade of evening begins to fall so that all who gather to see it may fully enjoy it’. Today the question might be asked: Was there politics by one to outsmart the other? Did the first group deliberately delay the chowkies so that the other group’s chowkies may be at a disadvantage?

I recall that some years ago, when roads were well lighted, several chowkies were taken out unilluminated. They did not impress at all. But at least the road lights were there. However, 102 years ago, when streets were probably dark after dusk except for a stray kerosene pole-light here and there, how could the lavishly dressed up chowkies be visible. The report has spoken about the ‘gaslight glare’ presumably because the gaslight could not be harnessed into decorative mould and could therefore be  having a glaring effect,  disturbing the viewer’s vision and preventing him from watching the dressed up actors  in a proper focus. Anyway, today the situation is just the reverse. The organizers try to delay the processions as much as possible to extract every ounce of commercial advantage for the stalls and shops which thus keep on attracting customers the whole night. But Dussehra will remain Dusssehra for hundreds and hundreds of more years. In a changing world certain things do not change. And faith is one such thing. So too the festivals propped up by this faith, devotion and dedication.


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