On arrival at our Indian plant today I was called to Pooja. “Come on, we go to celebrate Pooja” I was told. What? Was my initial response.
I was aware that a festival was in place having been told the day before. What the festival was and why was not explained. I did see many flower decorations outside houses, chalk drawings on the ground and numerous music speakers roadside broadcasting loud music.
This is all part of the Indian way to celebrate and it certainly is noticeable.
On following my colleague to celebrate Pooja with the locals we entered the main factory. Everyone had stopped work and were stood around a table. The table had a range of fruit and food stuffs plus some of our product at the back of the desk.
One colleague was stood at the table assisting another gentleman. This guy had a yellow robe around him but was topless.
We all took off our shoes before watching proceedings.
The topless man recited various verses for around a half hour ceremony. The colleague with him assisted by making various gestures and carrying flame lit items and fruit.
In the course of the ceremony I was asked to place my hand on a plate of fruit. We also very quickly touched a lit flame then placed some chalk like paint on our head. Numerous people had their hands joined in a prayerful manner.
At the end of the ceremony a water melon like fruit had a flame inserted and then was carried out of the factory and taken away.
This was followed by us all being given a gift of some fruit.
This was my experience of celebrating Pooja, or as the sign above the table stated “Ayutha Pooja Celebration”.
India is a diverse country of many languages so on researching on the internet I’ve seen the festival labelled as Durga Puja.
After celebrating Pooja with the locals I enquired as to what this local festival, which appeared to me to be a little bit like a harvest festival was all about.
It was explained to me that this Hindu festival is a celebration particularly relevant for the workplace and for education. The symbols and gestures were to bring good luck and safety in the work place. The guard taking the melon like fruit away with a flame was symbolising taking bad luck away. It epitomises the victory of good over evil.
The symbol of the paint like powder was visible even later as I noticed this paint had been put onto the frame of a computer monitor in the office. It was an accountants office so hopefully it will be good for us financially.
It is these little moments which I find make travelling so much more enriching.
You see and mix with the locals and learn to appreciate their values. Whilst our cultures are so different, in many ways they are the same. We often want the same thing.
Undoubtedly this was a rich and vibrant celebration. There is plenty of fruit, with colourful designs and flowers.
There is little doubting that celebrating Pooja with the locals was an enriching and memorable moment for me.