Globalization and Indian Festivals

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This year, I celebrated Diwali and performed the Chhat puja with more fun and much more pomp and show then the previous years. Festivals have changed now. Ten years back, when I was a kid, we used to have two types of festivals in India - one with pan India presence, like the Diwali and Holi, and the other with limited presence, like Chhat puja, Lohri and Onam. But, as I said, that was something ten years back.

Liberalization of our economy in the early 90's brought with it big MNC's into the Indian market. Advertisement became the need of the day. Manufacturers started luring the customers with added gifts. Diwali, Holi and Christmas Dhamaka became common marketing ideology. Competition started rising up with each festival, and so did the reduction in MRP of products during festive occasions. Then, in order to increase their sales, and also because of the market demands, companies took a smart step. They globalized the second type of festivals. This led to the narrowing of the gap between the two types of Indian festivals.

Lohri Celebrations
Lohri, a festival of the state of Punjab, which was traditionally celebrated with singing Geedha and performing Bhangra, is now celebrated with loud remix music across the country. People in Tamil Nadu also celebrate it now. The same happened with Chhat puja which was traditionally celebrated across the banks of a river in the Hindi heartland, and is now also celebrated in Mumbai, inside a swimming pool. Even our government recognizes this change in Indian thinking, and now we get a day off for Onam in the state of UP, very far away from the actual place of its evolution.

So how did globalization bring about this change?

Hindi speaking heartland of India missed the aftermath of liberalization of economy, even as many new industries and ventures came into existence in other states post liberalization. More and more people were now required to work in these newly set up industries. So, skilled labor from the Hindi heartland migrated to other states in search of jobs. People in the other states welcomed them with open heart because they brought in prosperity with them. These people (the immigrants from various states) also brought their tradition with them. Gradually, their population in other states rose. They started contesting in local elections and took active part in local activities.

Chhat Puja
As the customs and festivals of the immigrants seeped into the host states, a gradual blending of cultures took place. And this is the reason why now Chhat puja is celebrated in Kerala. To add further fuel to the fire, market analyzers sensed this change and started marketing these festivals on the same line as that of festivals having pan India presence. This media coverage further gave a national level recognition to these local festivals, such that festivals like Lohri, Chhat and Onam, that were unheard of outside their State until a decade ago, are now celebrated with much zeal throughout the nation.

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