Friday, October 7, 2011

Let it burn

Last night I had the amazing opportunity to go to a traditional Hindu festival that occurs every year around this time.  It is called Dashahara, among many other names, but if you google Dashahara you should easily be able to find more information.  The basic idea is that it is celebrating the victory of good over evil.  One of our teachers here at Rishikesh Yog Peeth described it as burning negativity, as fire plays a crucial role in Hinduism.

Like many religious traditions, this is also based on an allegory.  From my little understanding of this story, I can say that it is about Ram defeating the demon Ravana in order to save his wive, Sita, who was captured by Ravana.  Ram is able to achieve this with the help of his brother Lakshmana and their follower Hanuman and his army of monkeys.  Got it?  Well, it's not that easy, but you get the idea.

So, we walked to another area in Rishikesh along the river where they had constructed a huge representation of Ravana.  When we first arrived, they were beginning to play out the story around Ravana, which included kids running around him in circles, Hanuman coming with his army of men dressed as monkeys, and a loud speaker of Ravana taunting them all.

There was quite a crowd, westerners and Indians alike.  Shortly after sunset, a lot of fireworks were set off over the river and some accidentally in the river and some just on the ground, hopefully nobody was hurt by this.  Although fire is really important, fire safety seems to take the backseat.  Then it finally came to setting fire to Ravana.

I was all prepared to get a nice photo of this happening as the men approached Ravana with torches and doused his legs with lighter fluid.  Next thing I know, we (as in the westerners who don't know what to expect from this spectacle) are going for the good old duck and cover move.  The entire statue was loaded with firecrackers, big ones, as in I could feel the explosion of the whole thing.  Within seconds there were only a few faces and the wire structure left to tear down.  They take this burning negativity a little more serious than I thought.  Shouldn't we all?

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