Bidding adieu to 2021

Bidding adieu to 2021

Why did Hanuman suggest the impromptu party? There was a reason.

Representative Image. Credit: Pixabay Photo

One of my senior citizen friends was critical of boisterous, end-of-the-year celebrations. "It is not in our culture to celebrate the end," he asserted, "we mark the beginning of the year with a morning prayer."

Deliberating over the remark, I realised that this was only partially right. Yes, it is our custom to launch a new activity with a prayer. But it is also in our tradition to celebrate the successful completion of a task with food, fun and frolic. The best example of this is the harvest festival celebrated across the country to mark the successful completion of a major crop-growing season. The happiness is expressed through colourful rangolis, flowers, new clothes, singing and dancing, culminating in a sumptuous feast!  

Such celebrations are not mere exercises in unwinding. They are events to consciously mark the boxing of one set of activities and stamp it as finished. When one project finishes, the next is in line to commence. Hence, if the tasks are not compartmentalised, life would seem like one long weary road. Interestingly, understanding of this psychology is there for us to see in the Ramayana.

Sundarakandam, the 5th chapter in Valmiki Ramayanam, begins with Hanuman poised for the ocean-leap, being seen off by the search party sent in the Southern direction. Earlier, the group had reached the tip of the Southern Ocean with no success in finding Sita. How could they cross the ocean and reach the island of Lanka?

Hanuman successfully crosses the ocean, discovering Sita, creating havoc in Lanka and jumping back to join his comrades. Even though Valmiki’s focus stays entirely on Hanuman, his adventures and his successes, the description of the jubilation with which he is received by the waiting team provides a clue to the anxiety with which they were all waiting Hanuman’s safe return. 

The big news had to be reached to their King and the troop race to get back. Soon they reach the ‘Madhu Vana’, the protected garden that had innumerable honeycombs laden with the sweet nectar. Hanuman suggests to the crown Prince Angada that the troop be allowed to partake of the honey. Permission is granted and the monkeys are overjoyed. They indulge in a honey-drinking binge, get boisterous and even destroy some parts of the garden.

Why did Hanuman suggest the impromptu party? There was a reason. Hanuman knew that very soon they would all be headed South again to fight a bloody war with the mighty king of Lanka. The monkeys in the group were just returning after a stressful period of search. Hanuman wanted the monkeys to unwind, celebrate and cap the chapter of search. They needed to drop the memories of the project concluded and start the new one with a fresh mind.

Partying on December 31 marks the closure of the year gone by, so that one may begin the New Year with fresh enthusiasm. It's the same logic!

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