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Makar Sankranti - Hindi Speaking Union


13 January 2019

Hon. Acting President Paramasivum Pillay Vyapoory,

Hon. Minister for Arts & Culture H.E. Prithvirajsing Roopun,

H.E. Mayor of Vacoas Phoenix Mr. Farhad Dowlut,

Chairman of Hindi Speaking Union Mr. R. Suresh Ramburn,

Heads and representatives of various socio-cultural organisations,

Distinguished guests,

My wife Sumita and I would like to thank the Hindi Speaking Union for inviting us to these celebrations this evening.

It is a happy and joyous occasion.

We are fortunate that we are able to participate in such an auspicious occasion one week into our stay in this beautiful country and among the wonderful people.

This year Sankranti is extra special as the day will also mark the commencement of the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj.

We are honoured that we will have the privilege of receiving Hon. Prime Minister H.E. Shri Pravind Jugnauth at the PravasiBharatiya Divas and the Kumbh Mela. We are also happy that a large delegation from Mauritius will take part in these celebrations.

This is reflective of our deep and abiding bonds.

Distinguished guests,

Sankranti is the first festival of the calendar.

All of us are broadly familiar with what Sankranti signifies.

Makar Sankranti is a harvest festival linked with the solar cycle and, therefore, is celebrated on the same day each year.

This is a festival that is celebrated across India under many names and in many other parts of the world by the Indian Diaspora.

In India this is celebrated in different regions with each individual tradition and rituals. From Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, UP, Bihar to Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat there is a beautiful diversity of traditions to mark the occasion under a variety of names, from special recipes and offerings to kite flying.

Distinguished guests,

You are, of course, much more experienced and knowledgeable. I must say that this invitation made me more curious to make efforts to understand a little deeper about the significance of Sankranti in our lives.

As I now understand, Sankranti refers to ‘movement’. Movement at various levels. For instance, the Movement of the planet itself vis-à-vis the sun. It is this movement as we all know, that nourishes life on earth through seasons.

This is an agrarian festival that goes long back to the time when our ancestors started to farm and settle down to lay the foundations of civilisation itself in many parts of the world.

The festival reflects the deep understanding of our ancestors about the complex interlinkages and interdependence of life on earth.

Ancient wisdom paid close attention to the cycle of time; and our own profound connection to the planet earth and the solar system.

They realised thousands of years ago that sun was the source of all life. Modern science tells us how photons emitted from the sun that is a star reach the earth traveling 150 million km and provide the energy that is used by plants through photosynthesis to become alive and sustain the entire food chain.

All of us ultimately ‘eat’ the sun and are solar powered!

Our ancestors intuitively understood the connection between the microcosm and the macrocosm and that a certain harmony with nature is absolutely essential to sustain life on earth. Today, we are witnessing a serious threat to this long term sustainability because of serious human impact on its own surroundings.

Being a harvest festival, many of the rituals associated with this festival pay respect to agriculture as also farm animals and livestock that are essential for harvests.

Distinguished guests,

Sankranti has been celebrated throughout ages dating back to thousands of years and finds mention in several ancient texts.

Coming early in the calendar year, the festival signifies change and a fresh start. It, therefore, respects the cyclical nature of time and the continuity of change in life. It speaks to the dharma of time.

It is a matter of satisfaction that despite the pressures of modern times these traditions are being kept alive and honoured by successive generations. Through these traditions, we are able to convey our respect for sustainability of life on earth to the next generation.

This brings me to a related point that it is incumbent upon us to understand the deeper meaning and significance of our own traditions and festivities so that we can educate the inquisitive and often sceptical younger generation, who can then keep these alive.

We have to understand and be able to communicate the rational and scientific basis that underlies all ancient wisdom.

The way the people in Mauritius have been able to nourish their ancient traditions despite all odds is seen to be believed. I am deeply impressed with what I have experienced in my very short stay here so far. It has been a steep learning experience for me.

May I say how happy we are celebrating this festival with all of you.

Our best wishes,

Thank you.

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