THE GODS HAVE TURNED DEAF
Often I have heard ardent devotees cry in frustration, “My god does not hear my prayers. He has turned deaf.” I would feel sorry for their plight. But there are times when I think there is much truth to this.
Come Ganapati, and the neighbourhood is gearing up for the 5-day festival. In our housing colony of around 72 flats, one pandal is just below my house. A breakaway group has another a few metres away. Outside the gate, to right and left, are two ‘sarvajanik’ (public) mandal ganapatis. There is one more in the temple grounds behind our colony.
History says that this Ganpati festival which is usually celebrated in Maharashtrian homes by bringing home a clay idol of Ganesha to be installed and worshipped for some days before being immersed in water, was mobilised by Lokmanya Tilak into a community activity in order to bring different sections of society together during the freedom struggle. But what purpose does History serve if not distorted? And so this activity has now assumed gigantic proportions to become a public disturbance, obstructing traffic, creating loud sounds and generally turning worship into a frenzy of noise.
After being brought to the place with lot of clamour and clanging, all through loudspeakers, the ‘aarti’ in the morning and evening must be sung to drums and bells on the loudspeaker, in addition to cultural events in the evenings. The time limit for high decibels is extended by the State during festivals, but what is the constraint for so many loudspeakers in the same area to vie with one another – who is the loudest of them all? So it is a cacophony of ‘aartis’ following one another and the announcements and songs in the evenings, assuming that the God’s huge elephant ears will take in all these sounds. A loudspeaker may be justified in the evening programmes, but why do ‘aartis’ and bhajans need to be amplified when there are so many people singing together?
The ’azaan’ and prayer in the masjid must be on the mike daily, that too 5 times. Weddings and inaugurations are also incomplete without treating the entire neighbourhood to the sounds of the proceedings.
When our family shifted to Ahmedabad in the early 70s, the ‘garba’ was a novelty for us. After finishing household chores and dinner as well, people would come to the open space in their colony, where an idol or photo of Ambe Mata would be placed and perform the ‘garba’. Either the dancers sang as they danced or a few people sat aside and sang while others danced. This went on till a little after midnight. On Ashtami, Navami towards the close of the festival, people danced till early morning. No mike, no dress code, minimum lighting. Sober, graceful and a great community feeling! Over the years, this same celebration has turned into the extravagant ‘Raas Dandiya’. Now there are dress codes, tickets for participation and of course, the loudspeakers blaring all night!
About Diwali, the less said, the better – there is too much sound for anything to be said or heard.
During all these festivals, there are small children, the elderly and the sick whose sleep is disturbed? Then there are others who are sensitive to noise. They are left to their own devices and the mercies of God.
So go on, festival after festival – no dearth of them – ‘navaratri’ ‘tajiyas’ Christmas, ‘rath yatras’. Is it surprising then, that the Gods have turned deaf?