Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Relevance of a Celestial Battle

Today, in north and central India, is the day of Govardhan Pooja to celebrate the victory of Lord Krishna over Lord Indra. The legend goes that Krishna advised human beings to worship Govardhan, one of his manifestations, rather than Indra the Lord of Rain. This angered Indra and he either stopped the rains in some places or rained down heavily in others to completely destroy the crops of the people. Krishna then lifted the Govardhana hill filled with food and brought it to the people to save them from starvation and thus foiled Indra.
How do we interpret this legend? While Indra was only the God of Rain, Krishna was the overall God of Nature. Thus, the early Indians who were worshippers of nature, through this legend seem to indicate that they felt that a holistic view of nature would be more appropriate than a partial one. So the wisdom of the ancient people who initiated this legend and the resultant worship is very relevant today when we have not only fragmented nature considerably more through industrialisation but also devastated it with scant regard for the renewability and resilience of various ecosystems which are the basis of life on this earth.
I grew up in an urban setting in Kolkata and so knew only of Kali Puja and Diwali and had no inkling whatsoever about Govardhan Pooja that is held the next day. I first came to know of this when I came to Alirajpur. In fact the Bhils here celebrate Diwali in a different fashion altogether. For them this festival is a thanksgiving to nature for its bounty in giving them a good harvest. So they do not celebrate it according to the Hindu Diwali calendar. Each village has its own Diwali celebration in December or January after all the harvest has been winnowed and stored away in their houses. The picture below shows women using a saree as an artificial wind creator in the absence of natural wind to winnow red gram.

On the first day there is singing, dancing and feasting and on the second day the bullocks are worshipped and fed the grain that they have helped in harvesting. The food has to be prepared for feasting and for this festival small millets like Bhadi and Batti have to be pounded in pestles and then boiled. The picture below shows women pounding the millets -

The ritual of worshipping the bullocks and feeding them is an elaborate one and here is a picture of a bullock being fed grain after the worship -
Finally all the cattle and goats are let out from the house amidst loud cries and bursting of crackers. This celebration of Diwali by the Bhils or the Govardhan Pooja by non-tribal farmers is so full of meaning and practical considerations of the human bond with nature as compared to the empty festival of lights and crackers that we urbanites celebrate. After all given the huge darkness of money making perfidy that undergirds our lives and livelihoods, a symbolic celebration of light can only be full of hypocrisy!! The message of the Govardhan Pooja or the Bhil Diwali, the real Diwali which is yet to come this year, is clear - we have to become one with nature and pay our respects to its wholeness instead of fragmenting and destroying it as we are doing now, if we are to survive in the future. The celestial battle between Krishna and Indra for an appropriate and holistic relationship with nature has gained in relevance today faced as we are with a huge ecological crisis brought on by the greed for money.

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