BBC Radio Wales - Word for the Week
25th August 1997
Yesterday, my family joined the streams of cars on the roads for the Bank Holiday outings. We weren’t off to the sea-side or the theme parks. It was our annual pilgrimage to celebrate Janmashtami - one of the most important Hindu festivals of the year. Janmashtami, like Easter, falls on a different date each year according to the lunar calendar but, this year, it was convenient that it coincided with the Bank Holiday.
Janmashtami is the day Hindus celebrate the birth of Krishna who appeared in northern India about 3,200B.C. As Hindus, we believe there is only one God, but that God constantly reveals Himself to the world in various ways. He may do it through the lives and teachings of prophets and sages; through miracles; or through the personal guidance we receive within our hearts. And God may also choose to incarnate on Earth in whatever form and circumstances He feels are appropriate to the needs of the time.
Each incarnation offers some special vision of our purpose and responsibilities in life. In the incarnation of Krishna, God spoke the message of Bhagavad-gita, which is now revered as the “Bible” of Hinduism. Even more importantly for me, Krishna revealed a particularly attractive side of God’s personality - soft and compassionate; playful and humorous; poetic and artistic; loving and surrendered to His intimate devotees.
The origin of the word “holiday” is Holy Day from the times when the only days off work were for religious celebrations. Now, we have “Bank Holy Days” - which reflects how society’s interests have changed and money has become our worshipful icon.
We may lament how commercial life has become, but economics are a fact of human existence. What we can do is to recover some time amongst everything else to dedicate to our spiritual aspirations. That’s the benefit of religious festivals and Holy Days. In the words of a Bengali song - “Madhava-tithi bhakti janini” - Holy Days are the mother of devotion, because they nurture our spiritual faith.
Driving 300 miles yesterday with the kids in the back of the car was not my idea of fun, but the chance to visit our favourite shrine and offer our prayers and gifts gave us a surcharge of devotion that, hopefully, will carry us through to the next Holy Day.
© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Thought for the Week” on BBC Radio Wales.