To celebrate killing [Deepavali]

Such events of killing and counter-killing should not become occasions for celebration that will only serve to remind representative groups of their inimical relationship. And even if wrong cultural practices continue as festivals, the state must remain aloof.

We now have definite scholarly groups to own the representative images of Ravana and Narakasura. At least this must make people re-think the narrative of why we celebrate Diwali as a festival of death but not life.

I was born/raised Hindu, in Mauritius but I learned most of Hinduism from Vedas, Upanishads etc. in South Africa as that is where I lived as an adult and more easily found translations or time to read. I was raised around Tamil Brahminist institutions (temples and organisations run by Tamil Hindus) except that I was told at home that the myth I hear there, in the media or at school is not why we celebrate Deepavali, there’s a solstice-related reason (like Samhain but on the night with no moon that follows it) and people made a colourist myth about it in North India. But it’s not only that. None of those Hindu cultures admit that the Ramayana is anti-feminist and the impact goes beyond India, Indian diaspora & Hindu cultures. It’s worth nothing that the victory of good over evil aka light over darkness is in fact the light-skinned man killing his wife’s dark-skinned kidnapper who sought revenge for the mutilation of his sister by the man and his younger brother who acted on the latter’s wishes. That’s in the North, in the South of India it’s Krishna killed someone. A year later I edit this with the realisation that Asurs are an existing tribal people.

While it’s not like Thanksgiving aka Thankgenocide, there is Hindu right-wing violence against Dalits and tribal minorities in India that is unreported, and non-Dalits hardly speak against those but speak against reservations (reparations). Though they’re Bahujan themselves, diasporic people I know who travel there don’t know or don’t care, much like the white people I’ve known to travel there and get assimilated with Hinduism. Had I known about these realities I would have, when I still could, wanted to travel there and meet random people. Since no one is reporting even the extreme violence, Dalits themselves do and in India they’re doing a great job of informing the world about what is going on, all one needs to do is be aware and be open to listening. Here is a great introduction (no captions, in English sometimes translated from Hindi) also speaks about the use of #DalitWomenFight

This is the views of someone who is Hindu but bothered by the colourism. It’s not great but still far better than the message we’re accustomed to. If one tries to see it from that sort of perspective, it’s as if even the sky didn’t care about giving the country sunlight, at a time when in any case we ought to be mourning bats and their massacre. How can just about anyone be celebrating alongside the Government?

This article made me wonder about how things changed here, and on the same day I found out that Reunion island only started to celebrate Dipavali 20 years ago (said the news insert and the person who is said to have started the trend). Our demographics is different for sure and they still do Hindu animal sacrifices at Kalimays.

Divali, Diwali or Deepavali is the sacrifice of many calves so people can have dairy sweets. It’s probably more than we think there must also be a waste with all the capitalism around the festival. The grander it gets the more it kills. Typically, a celebrator would share sweets with neighbours of all faiths (and they in turn look forward to that), distant and near relatives. It’s really location-based but people would travel distances to 3-4 areas. That said, a Black friend got no Divali/Deepavali sweets! The traditions are exclusive if no Hindu indians stay in areas populated by Black folks, or work in the same low-income jobs.

An observation which first made me skeptical of the celebrations: in all their celebratory generosity, never did anyone care to include my restricted diet, but me-friendly dried fruit and not even get a recipe from this blog to feed me just one thing. Once I did binge on my authentic South Indian cousin-in-law’s fantastic savoury homemade snacks (and I got a little ill as I can’t digest it but I’m not allergic) but last year I realised the other issues associated with Deepavali and I will not miss it. I do miss her as I would love the opportunity to talk about Indian culture with someone who may be more informed than anybody here and knows Tamil.

While I looked for figures, Beirut and Paris attacks happened, and earthquakes in Mexico and Japan; my thoughts are with mourners and sufferers as well as those triggered by the events, who were in Garissa or the Nepali; and Syrians, refugees and those who will suffer in the aftermath. While institutions are condemning maiming and killing by Daesch (but don’t habitually do so for Muslim countries where most of their atrocities are perpetrated), I’m concerned about the complete silence over how disabled people coped or struggled. Of course they’re the first casualties but I hope stories of solidarity and survival too will surface. In Palestine during the shooting of a documentary by white people, disabled people in wheelchairs were shot by the Israeli army and sustained severe injuries. I forgot the name of the documentary but I’ll never forget the scene and faces.

A related observation to the Paris attacks is that in the French department next to here, there was sadness, shock, Days of Mourning, as on our Francophone island, but they are France. Life nonetheless carried on as usual, for instance concerts, but the Dipavali week-end celebrations were cancelled or something their news insert said. I wonder if, in these sad and stressful times, it’s too strange to be celebrating killing in a very festive manner.

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