How many of you know that India has over 100 holidays annually – religious days, festival days, bank holidays, traditional custom days! As a result from August to January its often difficult to complete projects.
This year Ramadan falls on 8th August at the moment. During ‘Ramadan’ meaning scorching heat or dryness, Muslims the world over fast for 30 days continuously.
This means that many of my craftsmen have been working part time over the last month, are often ill due to the rather unpleasant humid weather, as well as the rigorous schedule of fasting, which can be hard on the body. The fasting period ends with the sightings of the new crescent moon, which is why I say at the moment, as this can, and often does change.
If I visit a Muslim craftsman during this time, I have to remember they are fasting and I can not eat or drink either, and even if I am always offered refreshments, it would be disrespectful.
I try to plan my work and sampling around the festivities, any new projects that require time, good humour and patience are completed before Ramadan! For me, its the start of the slippery ‘holiday’ slope till the end of the year.
There are soooooooo festival and feast days, different religions, communities, then the customs in the north vary greatly from those in the south. For example – effigies of the Ravan are burnt at Dusshera, [ as Guy Fawkes is in the UK although he was definitely no god! ] in the north, and King Ravan of Lanka is revered in the south.
Apart from the religious holidays there are trade or vocation based special prayers and celebration days; artisans pay homage to the tools of their trade, puja’s – prayers are offered throughout the country to the Goddess of Wealth at Diwali – the festival of lights, hoping to attract her attention, that she may bless the enterprise and sprinkle prosperity into their brightly lit offices and homes. The lights are accompanied by huge bursts of amazingly noisy, sometimes beautiful fireworks.
Most importantly every holiday or festival is catered for with special celebratory foods that have be served, obviously seasonal produce which makes the feasts all the more special as these foods or ingredients are often not available or not cooked at other times. As used to be the case with special Easter food like simnel cake or hot cross buns. Mind you, I’m glad they’re available at other times otherwise I’d hardly ever get to eat them!!
Rituals and customs are extremely important to a population that places its destiny in their ‘karma’ – the consequence of past and present actions. Hence they can only hope and pray for their health and future prosperity by adhering to their beliefs, if you will please the powers above, they will take you to next life, hopefully a better one.
Although I love the celebrations of the feast and festival days, its hard when you’re expecting parcels of goodies from your crafts people!
The festivals are also in time with harvesting and the menfolk head to their villages, tempted by families to linger……. you can hardly blame them, as often they only meet once or twice a year at best. Making it extremely stressful sometimes to meet deadlines and complete orders!! But as they say, `Inshallah’ – if its is God’s will!