From light to love: the importance of the moon in Indian culture.
“My wife has a good face. Round, like the moon,” Surendra says, perching on the edge of the Lille armchair’s mango wood frame, smiling warmly at the mention of his wife. “I love her like the moon.” We notice though that everyone around Surendra is smiling; our guide is nodding his head approvingly too. “That’s very nice, a very nice thing to say about his wife. The moon is very important to Indian people, so this is a very meaningful thing to say.”
It’s Lunar New Year, and all across Asia the celebrations have begun. India is a country of many festivals and religious observances, mostly mapped out against a lunar calendar. The important dates shift every year as the moon makes its way around the Earth. It’s no surprise then that the moon would feature as a thing of cultural importance, from Gods to markers in time.
In Hinduism, Chandra is the God of the moon and the father of Budha. He is believed to be the one who causes the plants and the crops to grow. While Amavasya, the night of the new moon is considered an auspicious time. Many significant events are observed on it, like Diwali, the festival of lights. People gather on rooftops, waiting to welcome the moon throughout the year.
Given the level of spiritual importance the moon holds with the people of India, perhaps the best compliment one could receive would be a physical comparison to it. “I love the way my wife smiles,” another artisan tells us. “It’s luminous, like the moon.”
As soon as he says it his wife looks at him; she can’t help herself, she has to smile. “The Lunar New Year is a very special day. He’s always very romantic when that time of year arrives. I look forward to it every year.”