In these times of Dalit discourse and women’s discourse, one key issue that is largely ignored is the implications of Hindu festivals and their relationship with the Bahujans. Over the past couple of years, FORWARD Press has taken many meaningful and promising initiatives in this regard.
Prem Kumar Mani’s article ‘On Dussehra’ published in October 2011 FP brought many questions that were pestering me for long to the fore. The article turned the spotlight on the myth of Durga and Mahishasur. According to Mani, Dussehra is the festival of Mahishasur mardan (the slaying of Mahishasur). I came away from my reading of the article with one particularly thought-provoking lesson: the dominant and the deprived classes will not interpret history and mythology in the same way. This puts a great responsibility on our shoulders. There cannot be any doubt that our place in the history-in-the-making will be decided by how honestly and sincerely we discharge this responsibility of duly interpreting history and mythology. We should interpret historical and mythological texts from the perspective of the deprived classes and thus play a meaningful role in the revival of our civilization and culture.
Prem Kumar Mani, by baring the real meaning of the story of Mahishasur and Durga, struck hard at the prevailing beliefs and perceptions. His article became a harbinger of change and today, in many different parts of the country, people are joining hands to launch a revolutionary movement in support of Mahishasur. Mahishasur Martyrdom Day is being observed at many places.
Today in India, whatever we are taught has its beginnings in the Vedic age. However, the roots of the history, civilization and culture of the Bahujans lie in the pre-Vedic era. The biggest curse of this nation is that we did not write our history. The Aryans wrapped history in mythology and presented us a cocktail of few facts and much fiction. In this cocktail, Bahujan heroes are demonized. In fact, a cultural battle was fought parallel to the physical one. Following their physical defeat, the Bahujans have lost the cultural battle too. And this translated into them allowing themselves to be absorbed by their enemies. We started thinking and believing exactly what our ene-mies dd.
In his article, Mani had quoted Communist leader Dange to describe Durga as the murderer of the Dalit and backward classes. The same applies to Ram, who is worshipped as an incarnation of God and as a symbol of truth. Dusseshra is the annual renewal of the licence of Ram to commit grossly improper and unjust acts. Just think, if severing the ears and nose of a woman is a criminal offence then why is the incident of severing of Surpanakha’s nose staged on Dussehra? Why is nothing done to ban it? Here, it is important to note that besides being a woman, Surpanakha was a daughter of the Bahujan community. Then, what is the reason that women of every class and Bahujans do not protest or revolt against it? Similarly, the depiction of Ram’s interaction with Kewat in Tulsi’s Ramcharitmanas is altogether different from that in other texts. Washing someone’s feet and drinking that water is surely most humiliating. Kewat also belonged to the Bahujan community. The fact is that Ram’s entire narrative is opposed to the Bahujans. And by implication, Dussehra and all other festivals celebrated in his name symbolize the crushing of the Bahujan identity.
Celebrating the burning alive of a woman is the height of cruelty. Doing so even symbolically is immoral. Holi is celebrated by burning Holika. In this country, which boasts of having a rule of law, no one has the courage to ban the festival of Holi and take action against those celebrating it. What is ironical is that even women celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm. Why is this so? The only answer to this question is that Holika was the princess of an Asur royal family. Thus, trampling upon the identity of the Bahujan community is the basic objective behind the celebration of this festival. But Bahujans are no less to be blamed for all this because despite being aware of the truth, they prefer to cheer with their ene-mies.
Bali Raja was a powerful king of the Bahujan community whose sway extended over all the three worlds. Vishnu vanquished him by deceit. But the story of the valiant and great king has been buried deep and the Bahujan community is largely not even aware of it. In his book Gulamgiri, Mahatma Jotiba Phule has written about Bali Raja in great detail.
It is high time that Bahujans recognise their distinct identity and tradition. They should resolve to oppose and boycott all such traditions that symbolize the murder by deceit or the defeat of their heroes. For this, it is necessary that they should read their literature, explore their culture and forge a new path. There is no other alternative for our community facing cultural extinction.
Published in the October 2014 issue of the Forward Press magazine
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