When I woke up groggy eyed, I heard loud sounds, like crackers bursting in the background. I asked my mother if there was a party in the area, but she told me it was raining. I ran to the window which was too high for me to reach. Chair to the rescue! I climbed on the nearby chair, grabbed the horizontal iron bars of the window with my chubby hands and stared out. Water was falling from the sky. Lots of it! The playground outside was mucky, and there, I see frogs!
My mother came with a baby toothbrush in hand, asking me to start brushing. I know I can take my time with the window. She will request a few more times before she gets angry and starts yelling. Yes, the 3-year-old me knew that already, but for now, I wanted to simply stare out. Is the sky crying? Will the frog also brush its teeth? How will this big toothbrush fit inside a frog’s mouth?
There’s something about the monsoon that fires the imagination of every person – no matter what the age group. Many of India’s festivals are linked to the season. After all, with the rains come the hope for a better future, and possibility of a good harvest. Does one need more reasons to celebrate?
Let’s take a look at some of the festivals across the country linked to the season of rain.
Agriculture and monsoon have the closest ties – how else would our largely agrarian economy survive otherwise? In the Chamba region of Himachal Pradesh, the festival is initiated by distribution of minjar – a tassel of silk worn to symbolise shoots of maize and paddy. Idols of various deities are also immersed in the river. Colourful procession, cultural performances and an aura of festivity is how the locals mark the seven days in July.
A harvest festival celebrated in Kerala, Onam is a time of great activity in the state. It is marked by boat races (Vallamkali), elaborate meals (Onasadya) and the demonstration of Kalaripayattu (martial arts form). It is as vibrant as nature is when lashed by showers of the rain. For those living outside Kerala too, it is a time to revive ties with their home state and guests are treated to sumptuous food. A Malayali household on Onam is decked up like a bride, and flowers take the centre stage in the decorations.
The festival when being loud is excused and incidents of eve-teasing touch an all-time high, all in the name of the naughty Lord Krishna. In its true essence though, Gokulashtami or Janmashtami that celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna turns into a big event in Maharashtra, especially in Mumbai. Human pyramids are made to break the earthen pot filled with curd, tied at a height. It is believed that curd was the favourite of a young and naughty Krishna who would forever try to steal it. People gather on the streets to witness the human pyramids as different groups try to reach the earthen pot in the hope of bagging the cash prize. And of course there is the generous splash of water!
As for me, despite living a quarter of my life out, the rains continue to fascinate me. The reasons are different now. Living in a city like Mumbai where one barely registers the change of a season, monsoon is a delight. Whether it is thinking about a crush, a lost love or in the middle of a heady romance – nothing quiet awakens the heart like the sound of the raindrops falling or the sight of the leaves dripping with water.
May is when the monsoon comes to most of the areas in the Himalayas. In the hilly state of Nagaland, this is the time to relax before the grueling work begins again. So in the first week of May, the Ao tribe of Nagaland spends time simply relaxing and enjoying. The tribals eat, drink, dance and sing with gusto.
It is not just enough to lap up the bounty offered by nature, but over centuries our society has also felt the need to show gratitude. There are some festivals that emphasise the need to respect what we have and more important, in the times of recurring drought, we have to learn the message of conservation that our forefathers swore by.
The festival is celebrated at all major ghats in the country such as the ones at Haridwar, Prayag and Rishikesh. It marks the descent of the holy river Ganga from heaven to the Earth. Thousands of people are a part of the rites and rituals that take place every year to pay tribute to the water body.
At a time when the river is choking due to pollution, maybe it is time for us to take the essence of this festival seriously?
In a city like Mumbai where I live, there is no way you can miss the torrential downpour that for once slows down this city. How I envied the freedom when the boys in my class would play football in the rain and come back home covered in mud to be scolded by their mothers only about the condition of the school uniform. When I first intentionally got wet in the rain in class 6 after the school hours, I was called ‘tomboy’ by a teacher. The basket ball court was full of boys using the space to play football in the rain, but for a girl to break the rules…unacceptable. With rains came one of my earliest lessons about gender inequality.
How can the celebration of the union of Shiva and Parvati not be during the season of love? It is marked by the festival of Teej that is widely celebrated in northern India and Nepal. Young girls and women sing songs, fast and dance during this time. Teej is also a celebration of the bounty of nature, greenery and birds.
What is the worst thing that can happen to you when you have a crush on a girl? In India there are chances that your dream girl might just come to tie you a rakhi – signifying that she now considers you her brother. Growing up, it is a festival most of us girls have used to send out a signal to that boy who secretly admires us that, nope, I am not interested in you. Though not directly connected to the monsoon, it falls during the season of romance or shall we say sisterhood?
Widely celebrated in several states of India, Raksha Bandhan is the day sisters tie a colourful thread around her brothers’ wrist that signifies their strong bond. The brother in turn promises to protect his sister. Oh, and he is also expected to give her a befitting gift. Rains are also the time the divine decide to pay you a visit.
‘Ganpat Bappa Morya’ is the cry in the streets of Mumbai as Lord Ganesh makes his annual visits to homes, housing societies and pandals across the city. Amidst the slight drizzle towards the fag end of the rainy season, devotees sing bhajans and welcome Lord Ganesh. If Rio de Janeiro has its carnival, Mumbai has its Ganesh Chaturthi. If you think this is an exaggeration, then spend a day in the streets of Mumbai during this time, and soak in the energy.
By the time we say good bye to Lord Ganesh, who also unfortunately leaves behind a trail of Plaster of Paris, it is also time to bid a farewell to rains. The Arabian Sea too is unhappy, as for the coming weeks it will fight with the shore, throwing back the waste that will be in various stages of decomposition.
As for me, saying goodbye to the rains is never an easy task. I never get enough of getting drenched. By now I would have reached office drenched several times, but it is an experience the rain loving me would not trade for anything else. For a 20-something, can the world ever get more romantic than this?