Today might have been a regular day for many of us in quarantine, but an entire population woke up in celebration on this auspicious day.
Every year, the day after the Lunar Eclipse – this year, having fallen on July 5th – marks the first day of Sawan. It is also recognizable for being held during India’s monsoon season. If you do not observe Indian culture and traditions, you will not recognize this festival. It might not be as well known as Diwali, the festival of lights, or Holi, the festival of colours, but this month-long celebration is one of large cultural significance.
Sawan is a festival observed by millions across the world in devotion to Lord Shiva. During this month, Sawan observers fast every Monday, known as Somvar Vrat. Fasting is done out of respect and admiration towards Bhagwan ji (in English, known as God or a God-like figure); specifically, those who fast for Sawan are hoping to gain the power to overcome hardships, blessed with good health, given the strength to avoid evil, and more.
Today, my mother, sister and I fasted for Lord Shiva. This meant we did not eat salt, onion, garlic or any variation of grain. Although this diet was energy depriving, my family (like countless others) perform these rituals in hopes of connecting with our faith and being culturally involved. What is worth noting, is that I have always felt rather isolated from my traditions and culture as a whole because of the geographical location/distance separating Canada from India. But partaking in cultural festivals and holy events like Sawan helps me see through the 11 462 kilometers of land, water and air that separates me from my country.
Festivities like these and arguably, culture as a whole, continues to show individuals a way to stay connected with their community. Culture allows everyone in this world to have a place to call home, a group of individuals to observe tradition with and a larger group to belong to. So to those who are celebrating Sawan alongside my family this year and to those who have never before heard of Sawan in their lives, I hope you can take the time to connect with your larger cultural community and cherish the simplicity of the largest connective bond the world hosts.