As the Indian subcontinent gears up for the festive season that starts with the auspicious fifteen day period and North America gets ready for Halloween and Thanksgiving, we dedicate this issue of our magazine to festivals and their effects on individuals and society. Festivals have existed from the beginning of the history of mankind although since the beginning of the middle ages, they acquired a more religious connotation. The special events of human life like birth, marriage, death etc. were also celebrated through specific festivals. The forms of these festivals have evolved over the centuries, but their origins can often be traced back to antiquity.

Whatever the origin and nature of a festival, there is one common feature. It is an occasion for communication and exchange between human beings be it inside a family, a community or a country; an occasion for discovering or rediscovering a sense of belonging to a community. The family oriented festivals bring the far flung members of the family together and help preserve the value system and culture that are specific to all families. The religious festivals, observed by communities large and small preserve shared tradition, belief, faith but also culture and for a brief space of time bring people closer together. The seasonal festivals, often intermingled with religion, celebrate the relationship of man and nature.

We celebrate our festivals, whatever their nature or origin. They are occasions for sharing and rejoicing, thanking God or Nature or any other entity for what we receive. In today’s society with nuclear families and virtual communication, festivals play an even more important role for making us remember that we still live in a society of humans and not objects. Even when the true nature and purpose of festivals are all but occulted by commercial considerations, they do play a definite and constructive role in our society – by participating in a collective action we share and uphold certain moral, ethical, religious or cultural values.

A lot of modern day festivals have become as important to the global society today in almost all fields of human activities like art, music, theater, dance, sports… In fact, some of them are as popular as the religious festivals like Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali and Eid celebrated by the main religious communities. Certain global causes today bring together a large number of people every year on certain dates and in most cases help to build awareness and adhesion on a global level. The different interviews in this issue highlight the perception of festivals in these different contexts and make us realize how festivals go well beyond simple entertainment and actually fulfill our spiritual and ethical needs.

Autumn has always been one of the most festive seasons since the beginning of human civilization. Autumn is the time for harvest, when the fields and orchards are laden with corn and fruit, autumn is the time for plenty, reward of man’s hard toil throughout the year. This is the time when man was probably closest to nature, a time for rejoicing and thanking her for her bounty. In this ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ that will soon give way to winter, we wish all our readers a very happy festive season.

Aparajita Sen


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