Black Birthdays – From light to darkness!!!

candles1Recently, my distant cousin invited me for the birthday celebration of his son. His son blow off few candles that kept at the top of the birthday cake.

I had opportunity to see birthday parties in many countries. They celebrate in their own fashion – following their family, religious, regional or ethnic traditions. So I understand the significance of the Greek tradition of blowing off candles.

But my cousin is neither Greek nor Westerner. He was just mimicking an alien culture which he had seen in movies or advertising skits. He was making a silent statement:”I am modern!” Meanwhile, he proudly claims that he is a Hindu Brahmin! As per Hindu tradition blowing off the light is inauspicious.

I asked him: “Doesn’t blowing out the candles suggest a shift towards darkness and hence ignorance? Is this what you wish for your boy?”

“What do you mean?” he asked me.

“You claim to be a Hindu Brahmin. Candle creates Agni (fire) which is a God for a Hindu. Light comes from Agni represents divine wisdom. Every auspicious event of a Hindu starts with creating fire, lighting a lamp. And the lamp is kept lighted until the function gets over. Even after the function the lamp is turned off by hand or some other material like flower and not by blowing off. Blowing off Agni at such an event is  considered as showing disrespect to God Agni…” I paused and asked: “Do you REALLY believe Agni (fire) as god?”

“Yes. Agni Deva…” (Some may say fire-god concept is a superstition; but then, the concept behind blowing off the candles is also a superstition)

“Blowing off the fire by mouth is equal to spitting in the face of your agni deva, right? Is this the culture you want to inculcate in your son?”

“Sorry, I am not taught or I didn’t think about these things…” my cousin asked: “how do you celebrate?”

“Traditionally, we light lamp in the prayer room, offer flowers to god and distribute sweets or porridge to friends and relatives….” During my childhood, if parents remember (rarely) our birthdays, they would say: “Go to temple and light a lamp (Tuppa Diwli)”.

After lighting lamp, we were asked to pray: “Tamaso mā jyotir gamaya” means “From darkness, lead me to light” That’s our age-old Indian tradition.

Party must go on – don’t miss any opportunity to celebrate…but blowing the light off and talk big about our culture is too much…May be I am very much conditioned or not as fashionable as this cousin or May be I remember my mother who never allowed me to blow off the lamps lighted in the prayer room – a tradition that we follow for the last 3000 years!

I cannot say what’s good or what’s bad. It depends upon perceptions and conditioning. Everybody is free to follow any traditions or rituals that are best suited for him/her. Every tradition has its own merits and demerits. I am not a cultural fanatic. My cousin is. He is the president of a local sanatan dharma cultural association. That’s the irony!

Blowing off candles appears like an innocent celebration trending in Indian cities too. “What’s wrong in that?” one might ask.

Nothing is wrong. “Why should we worry about such insignificant practices?” social pundits would say. “Silly issue” educated people would say. There is a Chinese saying “Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” Now do you really think these trends are insignificant?

It appears just as a minor show-off, but eventually it will lead to competition, frustration and superficial show biz, says learned people.

All countries have traditions and customs. People are happy and proud to follow their own traditions – they follow it earnestly, eexcept in India, though we had a great tradition…Ironically, with the rule of the Moguls, invasion by the Turks and the subsequent rule of the British, we Indian were left with shame and contempt of our own culture. And we started mimicking (miserably) the habits and culture of the invaders….

If we do not teach our children about our own culture and tradition that has existed for thousands of year, who else will? Our governments won’t do it. India is the only country in the world that does not teach history of its own ancestors – instead, the governments teach history of invaders and falsely glorify them.

P.S: A Chinese journalist friend of mine (He is an atheist and Marxist) said that the young Chinese are excited to get marry – because the bride and groom can wear traditional dress and follow the customs that dates back to 2000 years! They are very proud of their ancestors and traditions. They won’t spare any occasion to celebrate in their own fashion. This is the difference between China and India.

Udaylal Pai
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