There always has been something magical about autumns. Even in its lifeless trance, it is autumn that yields the unworldly power of making even the fallen leaves dance. The rustle of the crisp leaves as they get trampled on, ever so gently, the lustre of the crimsons and the dazzle of the yellows that teases the world in a way the greens never can, the uncouth sediments of dust as they settle along the edges of all that managed to escape the shield of a cover- autumn perhaps is beautiful in the most insane ways. There reigns an air of spurious nonchalance, of gleeful grace even when the season of fall is one of pensive melancholy. Even in its wheezing breeze and nippy chills, autumn conjures up the warmth of comfort- the comfort of dwelling in a feeling unique to its mighty kind.
Transcending beyond norms and dictums, it is almost as if autumn has sworn upon perjury, emerging to be as diverse as opposites within its singular realm. There perhaps exists no pair of antonyms that won’t describe autumn with just the same zest and in as much significance. There’s however the riches of maturity and the beauty of harvest sparking up every single thing in the world even as the season dwells still in the sorrow of an epilogue. But it perhaps is this very contrasting world of mellow mundanity, of an all encompassing epicure, of pruned privileges that makes autumn so much more the enigma that it already is.
In our part of the world in particular, there really does not exist any season that does not make us happier than we already are. Ours is a joyous existence, a land of vibrant lives brought perhaps not so much about by its entitlements as its diversity, naturally endowing us with more than a thousand reasons to find cheer in. For a nation that finds reasons galore to celebrate plentifully each of its seasons, ours is an existence stemming from festivities. It indeed then is also our blissful brush with autumn that the season of fall seldom can transpire its gloomy undertones in our gung ho exuberance. For, as a land devoid of the glum morose of swelling winters or the extreme ravages of a sweltering summer, how can we not immerse ourselves in the delicate dilemma of a fluky fall, however flamboyant a phenomenon that season of harvests and hives might deem itself to be?
But inspite of our loving in profusion of the bounty of this season of benevolence, this time our almost cathartic indulgence in its bevy of blues and assortment of yellows is bereft of much of the leisure. The autumn air in India is always one redolent with luxury, luxury not so much in the riches it conjures whether it be or not derived from the inheritance of nature but rather in the richness of its emotions. There is a very peculiar yearning for autumn, almost of nostalgia, that not even the spright of the spring or the romance of the rains can bring unto us. And now, when our most favorite season at this time of the year is halting a lenient halt at the thresholds of our lives thrown at the present in complete disarray, all we can do is sober up and still have our spirits soaring with some semblance of sanguinity as we still stay on course for a relentless pursuit of routine. Indeed, even the routine of autumn excites and entices a whole populace of ours to rejoice and let loose, to not cosy up and cuddle but rather to set out and discover!
Why this inimitable fondness for autumn isn’t something that can be expressed in words or analogies, or even through the poesy. For anyone who has lived their autumn through in India, the season here is one of sorcerous majesty. While this itself is an ecstasy attributable to the myriad emotions that the season of the lacklustre sounding fall conjures up an elaborate tableau of, the magic of the motley of autumn stems also from the power of the divine!
Autumn in India is invariably the season when Goddess Durga descends on earth with her cohort, not just of divine lineage but also of happy vibes. While the legend behind the worship of Maa Durga is already a fable in fantasy, no less stupendous is the grandeur with which the Goddess is revered and celebrated during Durga Puja that is a five day encompassing celebrations permeating the folds of the Navratri festivities. Religious ideologies and spiritual sanctity aside however, the worship of Goddess Durga is also one steeped in the furore of feminism and of course the invocation of the power of the good that has it triumphing over the evil every single time, at least in scriptures and throughout the courses of history. But even as a festival deeply ingrained in rituals and residing prominently in religious significance, Durga Puja has ceased to remain just one of the many religious festivals in India, transcending instead set hierarchies of beliefs to emerge as a cultural encompassment of fun and frolic and festivities, with of course reverence and devotion in tow.
And why should it not be? As a festival that is now celebrated by all, irrespective of caste and creed and race and religion, Durga Puja is perhaps the perfect embodiment of autumn in all its revelry. For not even once, the mere mention of Durga Puja does not stir up a convoy of emotions in our hearts and souls. Whether it be basking in the joyous blue of the open skies or sniffing the festive spirit in the air, whether it be deciphering joy in the bright radiance of the shining sun or shying away at the romantic sight of fragrant jasmine flowers carpeting the shining dew kissed grass on early autumnal mornings, whether it be finding happiness at the cheerful turn of the weather or just deriving an inexplicable pleasure in the mere knowledge of festive season being imminent, the days and weeks preceding Durga Puja are no less eagerly awaited than the festival itself! It then therefore is not merely the celebration of the celebrations per se, but also celebrating the anticipation of the celebrations that makes Durga Puja so much an emotion for every Indian. Like the autumn we are so used to lauding in its cove of feelings and realisations and therefore of fond sentiments, Durga Puja is but only an extension of that nostalgia.
Nevertheless, reveling in the deepest arousals of the heart does not however discount the charm of Durga Puja in all of its worldy indulgences. So even as we go about paying our obeisance to the Goddess and spreading goodwill and cheer, there’s no reason why we wouldn’t be doing all these in good zest- and while donning new clothes of course! Shopping is as much integral a pre Puja ritual as is the citing of the many hymns or the offering of the prasad. From deciding on our Puja outfit weeks in advance to frantically scourging through trends of fast fashion on the Puja eve and of course indulging in making a roundabout or two in the markets even in between the pandal hopping spree, splurging is as ubiquitous to Puja as the spirit itself!
There’s however yet another way that autumn invariably ends up lending itself to Durga Puja every year. And that’s the nostalgia of homecoming. As a fleeting moment of time in passing, autumn is, like we said, the amalgamation of joys and sorrows. And so is homecoming. As near and dear ones get back to homes on holiday, there is a frenzy of laughs and talks dotting the season, so characteristic of autumn in its rustle of leaves and the hum of the wind. Because even with all the chitter and the chatter, there looms an impending sense of loss- perhaps physical, perhaps senile, that eventually catches up to the whole euphoria of homecoming itself. For it is only the way of life that whatever comes must return to its abode of the end, or at least maturity. In transfigurations like these that equate so many of the emotions attached to Durga Puja to the fructile chaos of autumn, how do we not end up falling sadly and deeply in love with autumn just a bit more every year?
The many vagaries of autumn are no less evanescent than its crate of aplenty. A season of free falling beauty and forlorn grace, everything about autumn is always somehow more seductive than the many flourishes of nature consonant in its riches. In its coffers overflowing with the choosiest ripenings and the most rewarding harvest, autumn does gives it all to us. But it leaves also with it a peculiar sense of loss, of missing remembrances and of abrupt endings. Perhaps it is this gloom that makes us fear the passing away of autumn that every year we grow to love it just some more. Perhaps our charms with autumn reside not as much in its homecoming as it does in our forlorn ravages of its fleeting essence. Not strangely therefore, it is only quite apt that even mythology has managed to pace up this baffling encounter with autumn with a parallel drawing to the celebration of Durga Puja. For much like autumn, bidding the Goddess goodbye till another year immerses us in as mystifying a pall of sorrow- despite the knowledge that this is just the beginning of a whole new season of festivities. Perhaps it is the dwelling of the soul that hankers not so much after a moment as it attempts to hold on to the yearnings that can only be felt. In our enchantment with the placid vibrancy of autumn, we often overlook the tandem settings of an obscurity that will follow unfailingly, because that indeed is the norm of life even in all its celebrations. Even life needs to cease at some point in time, what worth therefore are celebrations that do not see a disruption? Whether that be celebrating the aura of autumn or the divine in the Durga Puja, isn’t the season of festivals and the festival of seasons all the same a jubilant wonder in musings? We can only peruse and ponder!