The title of the article may appear bit uncanny to any casual reader since, how an organisation like MANS, trying its best to eradicate superstitions, can get involved into traditional rituals like Holi and Diwali festivals. Whether one likes it or not, it is a universal truth that festivals celebrated in a proper manner have some useful role in a society to heighten the moods and bring people together. In spite of availability and accessibility of vast entertaining materials in media world and the market, festivals have their own charm and unique role in a society, which cannot be replaced nor avoided. Festivals in one or the other form are celebrated throughout the world and India is not an exception. Sometimes, considering a multi-religious multicultural and heterogeneous form of Indian society every day in the year appears to be festival day either a local deity or some important day of the cult figures, saints or some national, historical or political figure. Amongst all Holi festival appears to have a very vast number of celebrators throughout India, except for some parts in the south or may be in the northeastern states. The festival mood brings some solace even to poor people emotionally though it may be of temporary nature.
The way in which Holi is being celebrated in Maharashtra and some other states appears to have ill effects. The tradition demands cutting of trees and dung cakes in large quantity to arrange a big campfire. Homemade sweet cakes (Puran Poli) should also be thrown into the fire as an offering to God. Porno songs and bawdy jokes about women folk are narrated in loud voice. Once upon a time the festival might have served its purpose where the firewood was easily available and left over food material after the feast might have been thrown in the burning fire. Somehow the essence of the festival has lost its touch and got perverted during the passage of time.
Considering the damage that is being done to nature by polluting all the natural resources available at our disposal it is a crime to burn the wood by felling the trees. The socio-economic conditions of the society demand that no good food should be wasted in this manner since a large percentage of the poor people had no opportunity to taste the good food. The noise is a constant irritation to sick people and students studying for examinations. The jokes and songs teasing women are not in a good taste and encourage male chauvinism.
Considering all the above facts ANS came to the conclusion that there is much scope to celebrate the Holi festival in a restrained manner eliminating the drawbacks. In fact the festival can be turned into an anti-pollution campaign. Some of the ANS units in Kolhapur and Sangali took lead and appealed to the schools to participate in the campaign to improvise the methods without disturbing the festival mood. ANS units also appealed to the like-minded organisations to join the campaign. Even local Panchayat Office, Corporations, Public Service Organisations were requested to participate. ANS approached the education office to convince the authorities of the necessity of participation of teachers and students in this campaign. Almost all of them showed a positive response to our idea and showed willingness to participate in the campaign. Education officers sent circulars to local primary schools and high schools in this effect. Action plan was chalked out and responsibilities were pinpointed.
As a part of action plan a procession of students and teachers was taken out, carrying placards which contained slogans on environmental protection, social responsibilities, importance of clear surroundings, etc. just a fortnight before the actual Holi day. This brought awareness among the people to rethink about the methods. The organising committee appealed to the public to donate at least 5 dung cakes to ANS so as to reduce the wastage by burning the same. Besides committee also appealed to donate Puran Poli to the committee instead of burning the same in the fire. Committee arranged the distribution network of the food articles so that collected food should not get wasted due to storage. ANS activists established contacts with thee people staying in slum areas and obtained their consent. Corporation agreed to receive collected dung cakes so that the same can be utilised during funeral. Women organisations appealed to the people not to target them as a butt of joke and ugly remarks. The campaign had a very good effect on in the public and people started discussing among themselves and started making inquires.
On the festival days, activists stood at various locations to collect the food articles and dung cakes. In fact Mayor of the city himself came and donated Puran Poli. Thus our activists were able to collect more than 10,000 Puran Poli on one day and distributed them to poor people. About two truckloads of cakes were collected and corporation arranged to transport the same to crematorium.
In a few places activists appealed to the public to collect the garbage and burn the same so that the surroundings will be cleaned. The students, women and men took part in this activity and within no time the surroundings were cleaned.
Gutkha addiction is spreading very fast and even children are hooked. In one of the campaigns activists appealed for burning of Gutkha to get rid off this addiction. Local media gave wide publicity for this innovative idea of celebration of Holi.
MANS has paved the path to improvise the festival without hurting sentiments of believers and also to reduce the pollution. MANS proved that festivals can be celebrated in a different manner and still they can be enjoyable.