Come February and excitement in young boys and girls in schools and colleges starts! Innumerable flowers, chocolates, gifts and vows are exchanged on Valentine’s Day, which is on the 14th of February each year. With growth in technology and exposure to social media and the western world, the celebration of Valentine’s Day in India has spread tremendously in the past two decades.
However, is this good for our country, our Bhāratvarsha, which has such a rich and sāttvik culture? Today, the youth are unaware of the birth and death anniversaries of our great Indian patriots, freedom fighters and martyrs such as Vasudev Balwant Phadke, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Veer Savarkar and Chandrashekhar Azad, which too are in the month of February. Due to lack of education on Dharma (known as Dharmaśikṣaṇ), the youth are sometimes even ignorant about who these personalities are!
In this article, we present in short the greatness of Indian festivals and why they are superior culturally and spiritually over other non-Indian festivals and events.
Background of Valentine’s Day
So, let us understand why Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the first place. Valentine was a Catholic priest in Rome. When the Roman king passed an order banning youth from marrying during the war period since he needed their help on the battlefield, Valentine was secretly getting young men and women married. Consequently, he was imprisoned by the king for defying his order. In prison, although being a priest and a celibate, Valentine fell in love with the jailor’s daughter and even wrote love letters to her, thus betraying his religion and commitment to the church. Can one, who is not in control of his own emotions, influence society for its upliftment? How can such a person be a role model for the youth? And, why is his death anniversary being celebrated by Indians as Valentine’s Day?
Indian festivals are meant to celebrate love!
Today, if the youth are asked why they celebrate Valentine’s Day, they say ‘It is a celebration of love!’ However, is love limited and as Indians, is there a dearth of occasions to express our love? In India, every relationship is considered pure, and we have festivals to celebrate love emanating from each relationship in its purest form. For example, we have Bhaubeej and Rakshābandhan to express love between a sister and brother, Gurūpournimā to express gratitude and love unto the Guru, Gowardhan-puja to express love for cows, Nariyal Pournimā to express love for the sea, Padwa (Diwali) to express love for the spouse, Gangour and Karvāchauth to express love for the husband and so many other occasions. The list is endless. Then why do we need Valentine’s Day to express our love?
How is love viewed by Dharma?
Dharma allows man to fulfil four pursuits of life called ‘Purūṣārthas’ – Dharma (Righteousness), Artha (Wealth), Kāma (Desire) and Mokṣa (Final Liberation). Even our wise Sages, who have handed over a treasure of invaluable knowledge to us in the form of Holy texts such as the Vedas, Purānas, Upanishads, Rāmāyaṇa, etc., were allowed to fullfil these four pursuits following the Code of Righteous conduct (known as Āchārdharma). Celibacy was never mandatory for them.
Dharma classifies love into two types
1. Emotional love (known as Prem) : In this, the relationship is governed by emotions and expectations; for example, husband-wife, father-son, etc.
2. Spiritual love (known as Priti) : This is unconditional love, without any expectations, where the relationship is governed by spiritual emotion (known as bhāv) ; for example, Guru-disciple, God-devotee.
In fact, we can emphatically say that no religion in the world is as expansive as our Dharma which says – ‘The whole world is mine’ and ‘Vasudaiva kutumbakam’.
In our country, selfless love is the basis of all relationships. Hence, there is no insecurity and thus no need to especially express it in the words such as ‘I love you’ as is done in the west, where relationships are unstable. This is why, they need days and festivals such as ‘Mother’s Day’, ‘Friendship Day’, ‘Valentine’s Day’, etc. to express their love.
Dharma also teaches us to love everything from living to non-living creation. For example, ‘Vasant Panchami’ is celebrated in this period to welcome the king of seasons ‘Vasant’ (Spring), when Nature is blossoming and the environment is charged with positivity. In this period, one benefits spiritually. In his epic poems ‘Ritusamhara’ and ‘Kumarasambhava’, Saint Kālidās has described the beauty and love that blossoms during Vasant. A well-known translator of Sanskrit classics, Mr. A. N. D. Haksar has translated works of Kālidās and described ‘Spring’ as –
In the woodland, everywhere,
the flame of the forest trees have shed
all their leaves, their branches bent
with flowers bright as blazing fire,
and the earth gleams in the spring,
like a new bride in red attire.
Hence, instead of celebrating a spiritually beneficial day like this by worshipping Deity Saraswati and Deity Lakshmi, it is a pity that our youth want to celebrate Valentine’s Day, where we forget our natural bond with nature and family, and instead want to follow the western culture. Is this not a kind of ‘Love Jihad’?
Harmful effects of Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day has no spiritual benefits. In fact, harmful effects such as financial loss due to unnecessary expenditure on expensive gifts and chocolates, degradation of moral values of the youth in succumbing to immoral behaviour such as premarital sex, extramarital sex, abortion, etc., creation of incorrect impressions in their minds (such as ‘physical love’ is true love).
What can we do to tackle this growing menace of Valentine’s Day?
The answer is – provide Dharmaśikṣaṇ. Children should be provided Dharmaśikṣaṇ, first at home and then in schools and colleges. Children need to be taught about the rich cultural heritage of India, its patriotic heroes, Saints and Sages, and a sense of pride for our traditions and country needs to be inculcated in them.
If by following Dharma we can lead a blissful life, enjoying material as well as spiritual benefits, then why follow practices of other cultures? Why ape the west? Why not follow the example of Śri Rāma who was faithful to His only wife Sītā, even when there was a practice of the king at that time having several queens?
Āchārdharma means the spiritualisation of every aspect of our day-to-day life; it includes expressing spiritual love unto our parents and family members by respecting, caring and nurturing them and our Sages and Gurus by practising and propagating their views.
Taittriya Upanishad (1.11.2) say – ‘Mātru devo bhava, Pitru devo bhava, Achārya devo bhava, Atithi devo bhava’ (Meaning – The mother, father, Guru and guests are forms of God). Doesn’t this give love a different meaning which is very pure and unconditional? When this be true, why do we need days such as Valentine’s Day to express our love?
Contemplate seriously, and spread the perspective presented in this article.