January 12, 2007

Dussehra vs. Burning Man

Dussehra: The Hindu festival is mainly associated with the story of Rama based on the Ramayana, one of the two great Indian epics. Said to be set around 1000 BC in India, this epic attempts to establish the social ideals and modeled Rama as the main hero and Sita, his wife as the heroine of the whole narration. It falls in September or October and lasts ten days. Large effigies of the ten-headed Ravana, the king of Lanka who abducted Rama's wife, Sita, and was subsequently vanquished in battle, are burnt as the sun goes down. This symbolises the forces 'good' winning over the forces of 'evil'. This is followed by professional dance companies and amateur troupes. Crackers are burnt, and huge fetes are organised. Dussehra literally means ‘that which takes away ten sins.’

Burning Man: In 1986 Larry Harvey founded Burning Man at a local beach in San Francisco, and has guided its progress ever since. From its early days on a small beach through its evolution into the bustling city of some 25,000+ people that the Burning Man event has become today. These people make the journey to the Black Rock Desert for one week out of the year to be part of an experimental community, which challenges its members to express themselves and rely on themselves to a degree that is not normally encountered in one's day-to-day life. Burning Man happens in September, on the last day of the summer solstice. The event takes its name from the ritual of burning a large wooden sculpture of a man on the sixth day.

Dussehra: The ten heads of Ravana represent loathing, desire, envy, selfishness, dishonesty, obsession, gluttony, rage, passion and pride.

Burning Man: The 10 principles of Burning Man are radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy.

Q: Do you see the Burning Man on a mythic level?
Larry Harvey: Myth and ritual tend to deal with primordial experience, primal experience, and our ways of rehearsing, recreating such primal events and reenacting them in a way that sort of transcends rationality, and I see it that way very much. It seems to me, that if you're talking about ritual around the man himself, it seems to me that that recapitulates certain kinds of primordial experience, certainly preverbal experience on an individual level, that more or less transcends culture. I'm talking about experiences that happen before we could speak and before we knew who we are, or while we were in the process of defining who we are.

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