April 4, 2021 6:43:47 am
When homes are lit with bright lights and decorated plush with rich imagery, when families gather for a bountiful feast, one knows it is Diwali and Christmas that are occupying human minds. When it is people and not homes that are coloured by the stains of celebration and believers fast in hopes of channeling inner piety, then it is Holi and Easter, which are engaging our senses. The Fall/Winter observations take our focus outside of ourselves while the spring/summer holidays lead us to a journey inside ourselves where the light within shines through to the outside.
Christians believe that Jesus Christ was born to take the sins of the world on himself. On Thursday night, he was arrested and tried and on Friday, he was crucified. But death could not hold him, and he rose from the grave on Sunday morning. His resurrection is the victory of good over evil and life over death. In his story, we learn that no matter what we encounter, darkness cannot conquer the light in us and around us.
Hindus believe that Lord Vishnu, appearing as a half-man, half-lion creature, killed the evil king Hiranyakashyap, symbolising good conquering evil. The celebration of colours is a reminder, just in the nick of time, before the scorching heat of summer, that what is tiring and challenging isn’t final and is not able to own us. Blue is a symbol of Krishna, a manifestation of Vishnu, the preserver of life. Red is a symbol of life and fertility. Green of new beginnings. Yellow, derived from turmeric, symbolises health and happiness, peace and knowledge. Orange signifies forgiveness.
I came of age at 20 in the US. Born a Hindu, it was my good fortune to be part of a religion that demanded no conformity of any sort from me. I could pray as and when I wished, in private or in places of worship. I could believe in God as an abstract or an absolute; I could choose not to believe in a godly existence. I was given freedom to believe and think, pray and meditate, as I chose. I embraced that freedom and found peace in relishing every aspect of that brilliantly sage religion.
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After 25 years of living a very full and satisfying life and discovering much about myself and the world I share with fellow humans, I was struck with a mini stroke which instantly turned my endlessly blessed life – venerated by some, envied by many and despised by twice as many – into a dreary and challenging quagmire. Nothing that outward rituals could change, as I was in no state to be genuflecting, kneeling, or bending. Life, or rather my chosen path, had led me to a Carrefour, where the roads that lay ahead were nothing like I had imagined myself as ever seeing, let alone walking and making peace with.
A loving and caring life partner, family and friends – it was they who came together for me. Irrespective of their religious or political views, Left and Right, they centred their minds and thoughts on my challenges and what to do for me. I became their focus as they left their differences behind. My healing and nourishment became their reflective meditation and prayerful call to action. Giving me hope, showering me with love and affection, bringing me moments of levity that would get me out of those dark, useless places inside myself, taking me on journeys that led me to my inner, most fundamental, core – they made this their mission.
It took a geographical change and a decluttering of my life to come to an appreciation of what I was and who I was. By taking stock of the good, the bad and the ugly in my life, by making peace with the demons of my past, by realising the impermanence of all things and giving mindful thoughtfulness its full due, I found a path into my inner sanctum. That place where, daily, I am arrested by both deeply exciting and uselessly mindless thoughts. The chamber within me where my patience, wisdom, humanity, decency, generosity, piety, selflessness and integrity are tried to my wit’s end. That heart which loses many beats and breaks and shatters into far too many pieces as it gets crucified by others who think I am different or apathetic or worse.
As I came with true cognizance to this innermost sanctum of my being, for the first time I found light in darkness, hope in despair, love where hate was apparent. I saw opportunity looming in doom, and found life as imminent death was staring me in the face. Because of the light and humanity and generosity of family, friends, and strangers alike, I live to tell the tale of a dark moment in time and how I came out of it to live, breathe and love again.
Whatever you just celebrated or will celebrate, Easter, Passover or Holi, or nothing at all, one must never forget to celebrate the gift of all gifts – life! It is our breath, and our ability to appreciate where it comes from and where it is headed with or without us, is what makes us creatures with a conscience. The conscientious then live to reach standards where mind, heart, inner space, soul and character dance in unison.
Holi and Easter come to guide us inwards as we appreciate the symbolisms of colour and fasting. When we are at peace with ourselves, it is then that we are anchored in that centre where no matter how dark the mood, how treacherous the path, how grave the reality, how tempestuous the storm, we only see light, we feel it, and have hope that tomorrow is as imminent as the vitality of yesterday.
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