"Hey! Diwali is on November 2 this year." The casual remark by Mrs Gupta sparked off a debate in our kitty party last week. Many ladies disagreed and stated that it was actually on November 3. Oh my God, it was utter chaos with all of them deciding to speak together.
But the whole episode did get me thinking. Why are our Hindu festivals being celebrated on two consecutive dates in recent years? This year, I celebrated Raksha Bandhan twice. Once, with my in-laws family and the next day with the families of my brother and sister since it was a holiday for their school-going kids. So we 'chose' this date from the two available options as it was more convenient.
We also got to witness Holi merriment on two consecutive days earlier this year. The same has been observed of several other fasts and festivals such as Ahoi Ashtami and Dussehra.
A decade ago, there used to be only one date for a festival, barring Dussehra which was sometimes witnessed on different dates in different cities. According to a friend of mine, this was due to the difference between the Hindu calendar and the English calendar (which we follow on a day-to-day basis).Thus, an important festival sometimes starts in the afternoon of the 'English date' and may continue till mid-day or even the afternoon of the next day. This leads to the confusion of the two consecutive dates. But haven't these two calendars co-existed for centuries? Why then is this discrepancy becoming more prominent only in recent years?
Determined to find the reason, I sought the opinion of the neighbourhood temple's panditji. According to him, this is probably the result of 'grah' (positions of celestial bodies) that have changed over the years. He also attributed it to Kalyug and a general decline in moral values.
Trying to understand all about grah and nakshatra would actually require an in-depth study which I plan to pursue later. For now I am content with the following conclusions. One, the study of grah, various rituals and the Hindu calendar are a science in itself which unfortunately the average Indian does not have much knowledge of. It's a pity that little formal education is imparted regarding customs and religious practices that define our roots. Two, the modern Indian is liberal thinking and practical. We are a festival-crazy nation and revel in celebrating every festival be it Holi, Diwali, Eid, Valentine's Day or Christmas irrespective of religion or caste. So all said and done, it doesn't really matter if there are two dates for Holi or Rakhi. Bring it on! Let's double the joy and double the celebration!