Friday, December 3, 2010

A festival of Light.

Towards the close of the solar year, we find festivals dedicated to the Light. In India we have Diwali, when lights are lit in every home, inviting the goddess to com into the home and bless it. For Christians this is a time when festivals like All Souls, and later Christmas are celebrated. Here again we see that the idea of death, and birth, the tomb and the womb, are what concerns every human being, in a spiritual journey to discover the meaning of life. In my own home, my Father, who came from Punjab, used to make complex lantern frames out of bamboo sticks which he would then cover with transparent paper, and decorate with designs. This tradition of making lanterns for Diwali, which are called "kandeel" in the north of India, also relates to a Muslim tradition of making "Tazias" at the time of Moharam. I used to help my Father make these lantern forms, and then we would keep the lantern up for the coming year, and link it also with the symbols of Christmas. Through this process I learnt that all festivals are in a way inter connected, bringing people of different Faiths together in a celebration of life and light. This year I decided I would make a lantern Kandeel with decorative panels which use metaphors from the poetic tradition of the fifteenth century mystic and poet Kabir. Kabir was himself an inheritor of two important mystic traditions of North India; the Sufi world of Islam, and the Bhakti traditions of Hinduism. It is in this way that he is particularly significant for us today, as we try to find what is common to different religions, in a search for a spiritual and also social and political peace.

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