Would you spend a romantic evening with your date over a day of worshipping your parents? By the end of the article, you will have a clear answer, regardless of your political/religious stand. This intention of this piece is far from being the moral police. There are emotions attached to this issue, and that is natural. Let us start with the origins of both of the days.
Valentine’s Day finds its roots in the Pagan festival of Lupercalia, the celebration of fertility and the arrival of spring. The people celebrated it unhindered throughout the Roman rule, starting from times immemorial, till the Church rose to political power. The Church shunned the festivities only to minimal success. In the 5th century, the Church (who was by no way an advocate of romance) replaced Lupercalia with St. Valentine’s Day.
There are many theories about St. Valentine; some say he married young lovelorn couples in secret. Others say he saved innocent Christians. There is not a sole known St. Valentine in the history, and most of them were martyrs.
Nevertheless, Lupercalia celebrating fertility transformed into St. Valentine’s Day. By the end of the 14th century, the masses acknowledged the Day with romance & love (assumingly, to the distaste of the Church).
Divas On February 14, 2007, Asumal Sirumalani Harpalani, aka Asaram Bapu, celebrated MPP Diwas for the first time in his Ashram. His followers have made it a mission to take it ahead. The MPP Diwas involves worshipping one’s parents, and a contrast to celebrating Valentine’s Day.
Unlike the benevolent backgrounds of St. Valentines’, Harpalani, aka Asaram, has been convicted on charges of child rape and is serving his prison time.
For the time being, let us forget the people behind both the day and the diwas, and get a little idea behind them.
The MPP Diwas basically celebrates and venerates filial love; The love which one has towards their parents or siblings. Some philosophers also call it the ‘root love‘. In contrast to that, Valentine’s Day celebrates ‘conjugal’ love, i.e., the love that a person shares with a romantic partner. Is it now a matter of priority?
The western culture already has other days to celebrate filial love. For example, Mother’s Day celebration again finds its origin in the Greek and Roman traditions observed from times immemorial. Various countries celebrate Mothers’ Day on varying dates. There are similar cases for Fathers’ Day and Sibling Day celebration.
Indian culture has also embraced filial love through Raksha Bandhan celebrations from times immemorial. There was, undoubtedly, a void in celebrating the love towards parents. The reason may depend upon how the Indian family is organised under a patriarch.
While people celebrate conjugal love between gods, they actively deny the same to young women and men. People view love between gods as pure and holy, while terming natural human emotions of affection and lust as ‘dirty’. That is the line of thinking behind the stand.
Caste distinctions and relatively new religious differences have further pressed the society to guard against romantic love.
While there is an express condemnation of humanly love as vulgar, I think the caste-based justification is only an established understanding, not publically said.
The proponents of MPP diwas specifically chose February 14, even when they had a whole 364 other days to choose from. This choice of a date indicates, to me, a mala fide-intention against Valentine’s Day and the idea of love. The appeal is not ‘in favor of MPP Diwas,’ but for ‘MPP Diwas as against Valentine’s Day.’
They urge people to abandon Valentine’s Day because it is the ‘face’ of western culture, and to replace it with MPP Diwas, founded only a few years ago.
Why this unparalleled hatred with Valentine’s Day, and not with other practices like cutting cakes? Yes, nowadays, even New Year celebrations are opposed, but not with the same vigor. Here, I think, is the exact reason:
Love (romantic) stands as a legitimate threat to the caste system and communal walls dividing the society. Valentine’s Day celebrates this love.
The secondary reason for opposing Valentine’s Day is cultural chauvinism.
The belief that one culture is superior to another in addition to the ideas of purity. While Nazis talked about pure race, neo-Nazis often talk about pure culture- pure language, etc. The concept of exclusion of an ‘outsider,’ be it a person (Jews in Germany, Blacks in the US, etc.) or culture (the V-Day), is central to fascistic movements.
This is also a strategy of certain theocratic states. For instance, Pakistan has already banned Valentine’s Day celebrations. No wonder that Hindu ‘nationalist’ organisations vehemently opposed the arrest of Asaram, founder of MPP- Divas, on charges of rape and stood by him.
The origin of Valentine’s Day is indeed rooted in western European culture, but look at India! India is a hotbed of the confluence of cultures. It is probably one of the things that make our country great. Another example could be the United States of America. One of its cities, one among the greatest in the world, New York, is known as the melting pot of cultures.
As has been the general rule, cultures are instead fluid, which comes together, mix up to become more prosperous.
There have been cases where the government machinery has tried to promote MPP Diwas. In Surat, in Gujarat, a circular was released in schools regarding the celebration of MPP Diwas. Something similar happened in Chhattisgarh, in 2017, where the then-BJP State Government declared the celebration of MPP across the State. Please note that Chhattisgarh is a tribal state with a sizeable non-Hindu population. Similar incidents of state intervention in favor of MPP Diwas have happened in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Odisha too.
The Constitution of India envisages a limited role of the State in the lives of citizens. By no means can the Fundamental Rights of citizens be taken away. Freedom and liberty are some fundamental rights, and are essential promises of the constitution. Liberty is based upon choices. If you take away options, there is no freedom to exercise.
Such state interventions raise some questions:
While the questions remain unanswered, let us now try to conclude the debate.
We are now aware that Valentine’s Day was adopted to its modern form by the people of the West. People of the ‘East’ seem to be doing the same as well, across Asia. This has happened without there being any designated proponent of Valentine’s Day.
Matri-Pitri Pujan Diwas was started by a particular ideologue, with political interests in the people’s religious sentiments. It received limited state support in its propagation.
While proponents of MPP Diwas propose that Valentine’s Day must be given up, I think people can celebrate both. Thus, you have a choice to spend a part of the day with your partner, and the rest with parents. That is not necessary, too; there is always a separate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Like you do not need to prove your patriotism, you do not need to show your love for parents to the world. I think you can also be responsible entirely for your parents when they are old. If you carry out your duties well, your parents will be the happiest.
The same is not right for romantic love, though. In my opinion, to love is not an individual responsibility but a choice. Freedom means having choices; love is one among it. Our society is only mildly tolerant of it. It has a political dimension too, that is why political parties often get involved in limiting the choice to love.
There are instances of honor killings, communal tensions, and. Only recently, the LGBTQ+ community won the right to love; it is still difficult for them to expect social tolerance. Incidentally, the Queer community has staged protests against Asaram, the founder of the MPP Divas, even before his crimes had surfaced.
Love that break walls need to be seen and defended.
You are a free human of a free country. To exercise your choice is your right, to stand up for others rights is your duty. Love can cure our society of all the aberrations; the decision must not be difficult. Be free, be young, and love!