Tag Archives: Mythology

Truancy Issue 2 Release 

It was a true pleasure to be part of the Roundtable: Intersections between South Asian Folklore, Myth and Lived Experience feature in Truancy Issue 2.
  
The questions and answers begetting more questions and answers provided challenging, wonderful food for thought. It was fascinating, moving and inspiring to read my fellow participants’ replies. Some of the resultant ponderings and conclusions didn’t make it into the (already blissfully long) article. These were the more personal ideas regarding diaspora, identity and place, coupled with the perceived legacy of folklore, myth and legends from various cultures that, for me, ended in the following.

Though I am nostalgic for something unexperienced when I yearn for being part of Indian culture in a way that was denied to me when I came into the world, I am simultaneously very aware that this is a type of… romantic affectation. 

There is no conflict of identity. I am very happily myself. Or rather; it has been my privilege to have had the space to become so, by trial and error, through joys and woes. That is solely the result of growing up with the cultural freedoms I enjoyed. Had I been born and raised within my own culture, bound by what I know to be the stifling constraints of my heritage, I would most certainly not have been able to become a touring singer, nor an all out, woman-loving equality activist, embodying nothing resembling religion, though you could argue I have an abiding, possibly worshipful wonder for science and nature. As a friend affectionately said once: You are a Sagan pagan. I’ll take that.

I adore being a fusion of cultures, a true citizen of the world – much overused as the term is. While I may not speak much Hindi at all, I speak three languages comfortably and a further two adequately. This roundtable, while actually being about folklore and inherited myths, has been excellent for crystallising some thoughts that have been swimming in the bottom of my mind like little blind fishes. I have long wondered whether all this superimposed angst of cultural belonging, or the judgment from people both Western and of countries you are ‘really from’ (recognise that question anyone? Folk always seem dissatisfied when I say The Netherlands!) may partly be a strange type of jealousy. Why not have it all? Why not have cake and eat it? 

Why not?

Nothing has been taken from me in that respect, rather a melding of cultures that has given my life that many more dimensions. Including the rich veins of mythology, fairy tales and folklore from more worlds than just one. I hope the roundtable gives insight and enjoyment of the different minds and backgrounds coming at those questions.

Plus, this issue contains wonderful fiction and artwork. Enjoy!   

 

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Rites of Spring: Holi in India

Today all of India celebrates Holi. This year is marked by especially moving events as widows are taking to the streets to participate. In India, widows are complete outcasts from society, shunned by their families and made to fend for themselves. Most of them make a pilgrimage to the two main widow communities in Vrinavan and Varanasi. There they live out the rest of their lives among each other. They may only wear white, are completely excluded from participating in life and barely scrape a living. (Deepa Mehta’s searing (fictional) movie ‘Water’ follows the lives and trials of a small widow’s conclave in Varanasi in 1938. Recommended if harrowing viewing.) This Holi, against traditonalist opposition, many of them have come outside to douse each other with colour and celebrate the coming of Spring. This is quite possibly the best smile I’ve ever seen…



Holi celebrations could be compared to pagan Beltain festivities: The celebrations start with a bonfire the previous night. Folk join each other by the fire to revel. The next morning everyone gets up early and a riotous carnival of colours ensues. Everyone plays, chases each other and throws vibrantly hued powder and coloured water. Massive water gun -and balloon fights break out everywhere. Anyone and everyone is fair game, family, stranger, friend or foe, rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders. The entire city is overrun with frolicking people. Some go from place to place with musical intrsuments, there is song and dance all round. It is time for eating, drinking, love and intoxication: Bhang, made from cannabis leaves, is a common ingredient in drinks and sweets. 



(I have made a very conscious choice to show revelling, happy women: there is an aspect of Holi which is less savoury, which is that under cover of the powder men grab a chance to lay their hands on women. However, as this is a woeful component of the society any day and is something that is continually discussed, something about which movements for change are extremely vocal and activist, I have chosen to highlight moments of intimate exuberance.)



When night falls, people sober up and dress up, to go visit friends and family.

This historical image shows Holi celebrations with a group of women laying into some men with coloured powder. It is not uncommon for powder games to ensue where it very blatantly becomes about men vs women, family vs family or whole neighbourhoods against each other! Date unfortunately uncertain, possibly 1700s.



“Holi is celebrated at the approach of vernal equinox, on the Phalguna Purnima (Full Moon). The festival date varies every year, per the Hindu calendar, and typically comes in March, sometimes February in the Gregorian Calendar. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair ruptured relationships.” – Wikipedia



Two women touch foreheads in a quiet moment in the revelries.

For the many background legends on the significance of Holi in different regions of India, visit: http://www.holifestival.org/legends-of-holi.html

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