Festivals should not be celebrated just for “entertainment” but are forms of “societal education” as well, offering “tests” to citizens to aid the society, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his Dussehra address here on Saturday. He exhorted all Indians to resolve to contribute positively to the society ahead of 2022, when India celebrates its 75th year of Independence.
Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind addressed a massive crowd at Shri Dharmik Ram Leela at Red Fort before the effigies of Ravan, Meghnad and Kumbhakarn were burnt. Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu, Union ministers Harsh Vardhan and Vijay Goel, and Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari were present.
Members of opposition parties, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, were also in attendance.
In his speech, Modi argued that the nation should strive hard to fight against evil. “Let me tell you, festivals are not only about entertainment, there has to be purpose behind them. We must resolve to do something positive for our country,” he said.
“On this Vijayadashami, let us take a pledge that we will contribute something positively for our nation in the run-up to 2022, when we celebrate the 75th year of our Independence. Our sankalp (resolution) should be for siddhi (enlightenment) as a citizen of a proud nation so that we make our own humble and positive contribution towards the nation by 2022. Let us resolve to create the nation of the dreams of our freedom fighters. And hence we should undertake a resolve to contribute something positive for our nation like Lord Ram,” the PM said.
He said that each festival in India was entrenched in a tradition of strengthening society. “Each festival carries forward the tradition of showcasing our collective strength, to raise sensitivity towards our social responsibilities and keep working tirelessly towards doing away with social evils,” Modi said. He said that festivals in India are linked to “agriculture and harvesting, rivers and mountains, our history and our rich cultural traditions”.
Thousands of years have passed but the epics of Ram and Krishna keep inspiring humankind even today, Modi said. Like Ram, Indians should resolve to take vows to create a nation as dreamt by our freedom fighters, he said.
“After the auspicious period of Navratri, today, on Vijayadashami, we have the tradition of burning the effigy of Ravan. This is also a part of our great tradition. However, as a responsible citizen, it is our bounden duty to ward off the evil forces and society has to keep the momentum on to raise awareness in this regard,” he said. Modi stressed the manner in which Lord Ram, during his conquest of Lanka, was able to mobilise every section of society, from human beings to animals and even nature.
After Modi, Kovind took the stage and urged all Indians to follow the teachings of the Ramayan. “We all know that Dussehra is celebrated for triumph of good over evil. We all abide by Lord Ram’s preaching. But we should ensure that we make his teachings a part our lives. Ram wanted to build a bridge, so he invited everybody, including Hanuman and other vaanars (monkeys). Even squirrels wanted to contribute. When Ram asked them why they wanted to contribute, they only said that they wanted to be a part of the nation-building process. Just like them, each and every citizen…plays a vital role in the nation-building process.”
After the speeches, arrows were shot at the effigies. The Shri Dharmik Leela Committee has been organising the Ram Leela here since 1924.
While Modi and his predecessor Manmohan Singh had a brief interaction ahead of the PM’s speech, the two, along with Kovind, applied tilak on those playing the roles of Ram, Laxman and Hanuman in the Ram Leela.