ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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An Unholy Festival

In a number of Indian festivals, the rituals and practices alienate different sections of society and even exploit them. Such is the case with the Holi celebrations in Charthari village in Uttar Pradesh where the dalits and women bear the brunt of the hard work that goes into observing the occasion but are not permitted to participate in the "enjoyment". This raises questions about interpretations of Holi as the carnivalesque churning of social hierarchies.

The oft-proclaimed assumption that the celebration of Holi loosens socially rigid structures and that people forget their socio-economic differences to enjoy the festival of colours, is farcical. These assumptions are merely attempts by the “India Shining” middle-class brigade including the “youth for equality” groups to hide the ubiquitous exploitative practices associated with our festivals, more so in rural society. Our cultural practices manifested through the celebration of various festivals and rituals are also well-defined systems to keep the majority of society alienated and exploited. In rural society, the jajmani relationship (whereby the lower castes perform service for the upper castes and receive grain in return) plays a crucial role in the celebration of festivals and rituals, where the roles and duties of service providers are very well defined. The service providers from the lower caste groups are kept from participating or enjoying such celebrations, even though all the labour and skills would have been provided by them and that too, free of cost. Thus in rural society, the upper castes and classes do not bother to involve the marginalised sections in their celebrations nor do they show any interest in knowing their stories or participating in their festivals and rituals.

 

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