How to celebrate a secular, sanitised Diwali…Tanishq ad shows the way!

Here they go again. Hardly a month after their all fluff and no stuff fairy tale Ekatvam – celebrating inter faith bliss,What’s your problem?’, the  ad agency  for Tanishq, the jewellery brand of the Tata Group, has once again grabbled the limelight!  This time, on the eve of Diwali, in the guise of selling  a product, they also decided to pontificate to Hindus about how we celebrate Diwali, once again in the name of Ekatvam!

The latest Diwali advertisement featured actors Neena Gupta, Nimrat Kaur, Sayani Gupta and Alaya F.

“I’m hoping to be able to meet my mum after really long. Definitely no firecrackers. I don’t think anyone should light any firecrackers. Lot of diyas. Lot of laughter hopefully and a lot of positivity,” Sayani Gupta says in the ad released across social media platforms a few days back.

The 50-second ad then segues to actor Alaya F, who indulgently waxes eloquent about how she hopes to eat a lot of sweets and food and spend the festival time with her family and close friends. Nimrat Kaur talks about the importance of being together with family and Neena Gupta  plans  to “dress up well and wear nice jewellery.”

The feminised space, however, is leached of all markers and Hindu dharma identity in which Diwali is anchored. There is complete absence of  sound, light and colour. Yes, tokenism such as sparkling diyas in the background and lilting music liberally sprinkled throughout the ad. However, it is equally disconcerting that  the four contemporary women in the commercial could be representative of women from any community.

It is precisely this kind of homogeneity and universalism that is problematic for me. Diwali, like Onam, is a festival anchored in  the sampradaya, traditions and practices of Hindu dharma. You cannot selectively tease out, separate, dislocate elements  and expect them to be stand alone features that can stand independently of the edifice.  The result is a sanitised, secular version of celebrating Diwali that leaves me  feeling isolated, robbed of my heritage, betrayed, isolated and confused.

However, the  pretentious disclaimer at the end of the ad with a quote  by Brigham  Young says it all – “He who takes offence when offence was not intended is a fool; yet he who takes offence when offence is intended is an even greater fool for he has succumbed to the will of his adversary!”

As a strategy based on subterfuge, it works brilliantly. Here’s a step by step do-it-yourself tips for whitewashing Hindu dharma traditions so that they have a  ‘universal’ appeal.

  • Begin with selectively highlighting certain features of the festival (in this case fellowship, friends and family) and position it in a way that chides people for being oblivious to it for centuries!
  • Delink it from all Hindu dharma and identity markers (no traditional saris, no salwar kameez, no bindis, no pooja, no fire crackers, no rituals, no  food and sweets made of ghee).
  • Ensure that there is no obvious  resemblance to the  the eco system in which the festival is anchored.
  • However, a sprinkling of a few tokenisms here and there is non-negotiable for complete digestion and assimilation.
  • Toss, turn and sauté well on slow flame until the ingredients are a mish mash.
  • Let it simmer for as long as possible.

Serve hot with generous helpings garnished with New Age additives such as atmospheric pollution, environmentalism, noise decibels, healthy, ghee-free cooking, animal activism,  fire cracker ban and green crackers.

It’s time  for practising Hindus not  to be told how to celebrate our festivals by deracinated, rootless Hindus in Name Only (HINOS) and others. It is heartening to note that several Netizens have reacted disapprovingly to the tone and tenor of the ad, which has been withdrawn from Twitter and YouTube but continues to be on the company’s Instagram page.

When I was a young girl, my grandmother would  wake  me up  early in the morning and anoint my feet with haldi and kumkum and place warm gingelly oil on my head. I would have an oil bath, wear new clothes (traditional South Indian ghagra known as paavadai and  when I was a teenager, a half sari)  and my brother and I would fire crackers.

Here’s how a South Indian Brahmin like me plans to celebrate Diwali tomorrow. I’d get up early and have the ceremonial oil bath and wear a sari for the occasion. I plan to help my mother cook a traditional meal for the occasion and offer it as prasadam for the presiding family deity. Pooja and recitation of slokas would be an integral part of the day, culminating with lighting diyas and reciting Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam and Sri Lakshmi stotra in the evening. Of course, being with the family is so integral to the process as is my own sadhana practice that is part of my journey.

I am already revelling in the essence of Diwali…joy, exuberance and lightness…may the Light pervade our lives and illumine our inner world  dispelling the darkness of ignorance both within and without!


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About the Author

Dr. Nandini Murali
Dr. Nandini Murali is a communications professional,  author and researcher in Indic Studies.  She is a Contributing Editor with the HinduPost. She loves to wander in the forests with her camera.