Want to enjoy Indian festivals with gaiety? Recalibrate the lunar calendar

  • Miles
  • September 1, 2019
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Want to enjoy Indian festivals with gaiety? Recalibrate the lunar calendar

More than 2500 years ago, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only thing that is constant is change”. Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them — that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let the things flow forward in a natural way.”

Mother Nature follows its own course, leaving a trail of changes for us to accept and adapt to. Unfortunately, there are many things that refuse to change; and there are many people who bizarrely refuse to accept the change. This refusal to accept the change and be ready to adapt often creates unnecessary friction and avoidable sorrow in the society.

Next week the autumn festival season begins in India with ten days of Ganpati festival. It will be followed by a fortnight of Pitru Paksha (ancestors’ fortnight), ten days of Navratri, Durga Puja and Dussehra, a week of Diwali. The one week celebration to commemorate the descent of gods on earth ending with Kartik Purnima (November 12) will mark the end of autumn festival season.

In my numerous expeditions to explore the treasure you know as India, I have been observing the things changing rather dramatically. Especially in the past couple of decades, the rate of change has accelerated conspicuously. One most conspicuous change that has occurred is the change in the weather pattern. The seasons of Summer, Monsoon, Winter, Spring and Autumn, all have noticeably shifted away from the traditional Indian lunar calendar.

The present crop cycles do not exactly match with the crop festivals like Diwali, Pongal, Sankranti, Vasant Panchami, Baisakhi, Holi and Navratri, which are still celebrated as per lunar calendar dates.

Consequently, sometimes we get Holi and Diwali, when the crop is still to be harvested or it is already time for sowing of next crop. The farmers, who form about half the Indian population, are busy in fields having little time or money to celebrate.

Moreover, for Hindus most of the auspicious times (Muhurat) for events like marriages and house warming are linked to traditional crop cycle. Any social, religious and family celebration is avoided during sowing or times when standing crop needs more care. Harvest is the time when people have cash to indulge and celebrate.

My interactions with many farmers suggest that most of the time they are left feeling like students who have been told to celebrate their exam result, even before the exams are over.

Incidentally, even though the share of agriculture and allied activities in our economy has shrunk to less than one sixth, culturally we are still predominantly an agrarian society. Thus, a significant part of the business cycle in India, especially for consumption-oriented businesses, is intertwined with crop cycles. The discretionary consumption demand of at least 50 percent population is directly connected to the crop cycle.

For consumer facing businesses, therefore, adjusting the inventory and working capital cycle to the crop cycle is very important. Whereas, the official calendars of busy and lean business cycles, are still tied with the lunar calendar.

I am not sure if anyone is thinking about recalibrating the lunar calendar to the crop cycle. It would be easy to reject the idea as preposterous and blasphemous. But I am sure, if we do not do this, most of our festivals and rituals will die the way many of our ancient scriptures, scientific knowledge and languages have ended.

Celebrating Holi when the winds are still chilly and burning Ravan’s effigies when it’s raining or the temperatures are running in high 30s is no fun after all.