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Questions amidst celebrations

Shaantanu Kulkarni | India

Pilgrim gets a quick haircut as the whole town of Varanasi gathers itself to celebrate Dev Deepawali.

Preparations for Dev Deepawali were underway as locals engaged in last minute decorations. This festival, a distinctive insight into the heritage of Varanasi as a holy site occupied the throne of people’s love, attention and dedication.

The celebrations cause irrevocable pollution in the air that we breathe, and in the very river that is worshipped by millions.

For a city tied to its core with traditions and religious beliefs, prioritising the need to address its environmental degradation is a daunting venture.

“Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that this Nature he is destroying is this God he is worshipping”, says Hubert Reeves.

I have attempted to portray the clear dominance of humans and their desires to always be in control of events. We continue to nonchalantly give a cold shoulder to all the reasons and experiences that urge us to protect our environment from the rampant exploitation of resources and change the way we celebrate festivals and traditions.

Shouldn’t we genuinely evolve with time if we are to preserve our planet?

While navigating the hustle-bustle of one of the holiest cities in India, the festive cheerful atmosphere welcoming millions of pilgrims to Dev Deepawali (Diwali of the Gods), almost suppressed the dreadful realisation of the massive pollution and exploitation of resources that this one week causes every year. 

Far above our need to celebrate and preserve our culture and traditions, comes the need to reflect immediately on how we are behaving with our Earth and the consequences of our mindsets and intentions. 

As I got to observe the preparations that happen mainly along the ghats (banks of the river Ganga/ Ganges), I have visually expressed our desire to defy nature and be in a state of revelry with the expectation that we can go on like this forever. 

This is an alarm call from the tallest tree in the jungle directed at us to dig a little deeper within us to make amends to our intentions.  

Are we gearing up and renovating our homes, shops and boats for a festival or for our extinction? 

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