It’s Christmas season, and, well, it is so even in Aurangabad. In its own way.
Yesterday evening, unexpectedly, I bumped into some passionate carolers. Imagine it: tropical cool evening, some kids are wearing Santa hats, sweat beads forming along the edge of the hat on their foreheads because it’s obviously too hot for wool. One of them was reverentially holding a big star. I didn’t quite understand why, I’ve never seen a star get such, um, star treatment in all the Christmas celebrations I’ve witnessed in North America or the Philippines or anywhere else really. There was also someone who looked like a priest, in a full-length white robe, leading the group. All of this was topped by loud clanging, as the carols were belted out in similar force.
The whole scene was startling. Christmas in Aurangabad? I’m sure there are Christians in the town, in fact 1.1 percent of residents are Christians, according to Wikipedia. That’s about 18,000 people. It startled me because I’ve never actually seen one of them, or picked up any evidence of their existence in all of my visits over so many years. Churches are not too visible here. Surnames too don’t reflect this background, like the De Souzas and Fernandos of Mumbai. Aurangabad is primarily seen to be populated by Hindus and Muslims, for the most part.
So here we are, a loud proclamation of Christmas in Aurangabad, in pomp and glory. The beauty of it is, it was happening in an extremely local fashion. The noise, the crowd, the manner of holding the star were reminiscent of the way Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated. The arrival of Lord Ganesh, or Ganpati as the elephant-headed god is called around here, in September happens pretty much the same way. Big groups of family and friends hold an idol of the friendly god lovingly in their arms as they wind their way down the road to bring him home. All the while, the neighbours and sundry are made aware of his arrival. Loud chants ring the air, and people dressed in finery smile and laugh happily.
In its own, local way, this town is expressing its joy at the arrival of Jesus Christ. I’m not sure if this is an old or new tradition, but it is clearly one that has its place in the Aurangabad of today. I wonder if they’ll sing “I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus”.