“Place me in that deathless, undecaying world,
where the light of heaven shines in everlasting lustre. . .
Make me immortal in that realm . . . where the worlds are filled with light;
in that realm of bliss let me realize my immortality.”
– Rig Ved Samhita
If you are celebrating Halloween, you must wonder if this is a festival celebrated in the west or do we have any parallels in India? There is a high chance that the entire tradition of Halloween might be rooted in Indian Hinduism. Offering food, prayers and respects to the dead is not a new practice. For centuries many cultures across the world have been practising these customs as a festival.
Darkness to light
Isn’t it a coincidence that Halloween falls between major Indian festivals like Dussehra and Diwali? Our Hindu customs in India have given quite a prominence to worshiping the elders and celebrating their life even after their passing. Our traditions believe in the significance of seeking the blessings of the ones who passed away. The transition is from celebrating Durga and Kali during dusserra, to Diwali, which is a festival of lights, from the reverence of darkness to the welcoming of light.
Halloween also marks the transition between summer and winter, light and dark — and life and death. On that one night, according to folklore, those who had died during the previous year return for a final visit to their former homes. People set out food and lit fires to aid them on their journey — but remain on guard for mischief the spirits might do.
All Saint’s Day
It was Pope Gregory IV who designated November 1st as All Saints Day. This literally means a day for all the saints who were hallowed and have entered the next life. They are to be remembered for their work which was a gift to people on earth and needed to be celebrated. The previous evening to the All Saints Day was called ‘Hallow’s Eve’ which was later modified to Halloween.
Celtic Origin of Aryan customs
According to the folklore, Halloween started from a festival by the ancient Druids – the holy priests of the Celtic religion. The Celts were the first set of Aryans who originated from India and migrated to Europe. The Celtic religion, presided over by the Druids (the priestly order) had beliefs in various nature deities. Certain ceremonies and practices are similar to those in the Indian religion. The Celts and the people of India seems to share certain similarities of language and culture, thus indicating a common heritage.
Regardless of a strong belief in the idea of rebirth, Hinduism, with its Vedic scriptures, displays a solid tradition of worshiping their ancestors. This is prominently visible in the special ceremony, the śrāddha, which is followed in India to this day.
Pitru Paksha Shradh
This is the ideal time for Pitru Paksha Shradh, arriving before the pre-winter Navratras when ancestors are adored, and prayers are offered for the rest of their souls. The custom is considered more significant than the worship of God, as the individual owes his actual birth to his ancestors.
It is said that even Lord Rama performed this ceremony. When Rama performed the Shradh for his ancestors, one sadhu ate so much that the Lord’s three siblings became weary of taking care of him. They sought for Ramchandra Ji’s assistance, who said that he would serve the sadhu himself. When he started serving the sadhu, he recognised him as Shiva. The sadhu grinned and disappeared.
The Ullambana Sutra speaks of the story of Mahamaudgalyayana, a disciple of Buddha, whose mother had been reborn into a lower realm. Buddha’s instructions to his student are similar to the modern-day Halloween practices, which is to offer food and pray for the souls of both living and dead relatives.
While we try and comprehend the origins of worshiping one’s ancestors in heaven, we need to agree that the Vedic ritual cycle. The codification of many domestic rituals of ancestral worship might be older than we can imagine.
Halloween’s Indian Origin
With these simple origin traces we have, we know that the tradition of halloween precedes the Western festival. We can see the customs deeply rooted in Indian Hinduism from time immemorial and it is safe to say that Aryans might have had a strong influence. So, did Halloween start in India as an Aryan tradition and taken to Celtic region? What do you think?
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