Why Emperor Akbar haunts Hindutva

Dawn: IT was Dussehra the other day, and now it will be Diwali. Both occasions, like other Hindu festivals, are celebrated in different ways in different regions of India and are also known by different names. Dussehra in north India more or less coincides with Durga Puja in Bengal.

Many Buddhists in India mark Emperor Ashoka’s conversion to the faith around the time of Diwali. For people like me the festival heralds foggy winters when mothballed woollies are hung out in the fading sun before being ready to be reused.

A lot of Indians celebrate Hindu festivals for similar reasons, which increasingly find Muslims in Pakistan observing Hindu customs. They go for the cultural and aesthetic appeal, and not always for the belief associated with them.

I know Pakistani women who ask their husbands when they visit India to fetch them sindoor, the vermillion mark worn by married Hindu women in the parting of the hair. Partly this could be the influence of Hindi movies. There are Pakistani women who also want their husbands to give them the mangalsutra, a special necklace that symbolises matrimony for Hindu women. Quite a number of my contemporaries don’t go to these celebrations any longer, partly because Hindutva has hijacked the festivals.

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