On 14 November ‘Joti Prub’ was celebrated in Tando Allahyar parish. What is special about this celebration? Let us start by the meaning of these words. Joti or jot means feast in Kutchi Kohli language. Thus, ‘Joti Prub’ is for us, Kutchi Kohli Christians, the feast of light. On this special day, the celebration began with a gathering in the church at 5.30pm. The hymns of light/Christ’s light are sung and the priest who is at the altar for presiding has an apple, a red ribbon around it, four sticks with raisins in them stuck in the apple and a candle placed in the middle of it. The apple represents our world, the raisins its fruits and the four sticks represent the seasons of our country; but I also feel that the four sticks refer to the four corners of the world, in a certain way each stick connects us with the whole universe at East, West, South and North. The candle is the source of light and symbolizes Jesus as the light of the world; a light of life that he came to share with others as a well of freedom (“the Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” [Lk. 4:18-19]). The red ribbon is the sign of love which God showed to the world by sending his only Son for humanity to be saved; a love that enwrapped the world as the ribbon the apple. After this initial ritual, the community forms two groups, each group having a priest with them. These two groups go house to house singing and holding candles in their hands full of enthusiasm and happy mood. We pray in every house and bless the house including those who live there.
It was a very enriching experience for me to see the readiness and welcoming attitude of people. Some of the houses were very nicely decorated with candles and diyas (small oil lamps) and even with images of Jesus and Mary at the spot we all gathered for praying. This walking together from house to house was a symbol of the solid bond of unity that we are invited to build among people.
What is the origin of this celebration? For Hindus Joti Prub is called Diwali, which they celebrate with joy every year, but for us Kutchi Kohli Christians the idea of Diwali was Christianized and called Joti Prub. Doing that we are not separated from our brothers and sisters, instead we deepen our bond as Kutchi Kohlis despite the difference of faith. It is also important to notice that among Kutchi Kohli families, sometimes or most of the time, it is possible that some members of the family can be Hindus and some Christians. In this context, we Christians believe that our faith does not separate us, but unites us with all humanity and there is nothing wrong in celebrating something which brings people close to each other and shares the gospel values of love, peace, joy and reconciliation.
The first day of Joti Prub/Diwali is about light and the second day is about reconciliation. The Kutchi Kohli people call it Parwa which means to greet our elders and other members of family or relatives. Let me explain it more. On this day people try to reconcile with those with whom they were angry or there was any tension. There is so much power in this day; Kutchi Kohlis have a conviction, rooted in their experience of the divine and the world, that asking for forgiveness and forgiving others will help them to be more happy and content in their life; in many ways harmony will be restored. In this sense, they also believe that the celebration is not complete if there is no unity in the family and if their hearts are filled with hurts or anger that prevent joy being real. It seems like Utopian ideals, but I feel that in the special simplicity of their hearts, Kutchi Kohlis really know how to let go of even the worst things that happen to them. These people might not know much about Christian doctrine and history but they can be stronger than those Christians who know or talk about forgiveness but their hearts are prisoners of anger, envy and jealousy.
For me this experience of celebrating Joti Prub with my people was not less than a mystical experience. I found Jesus in those people who look very simple, without many words, but with their strong values and their faith-rooted conviction that the power of light overcomes darkness, life overcomes death and goodness overcomes evil. They show that forgiveness opens the path to a new and deep harmony. They taught me that it is not difficult to be a person of Godly values. They helped me to understand that it is easy to practice when we really believe in it. In the simplicity and the joy of these days of celebrations it becomes much easier to understand this invitation of Jesus – You are the light of the world. So light is always for spreading and it helps us to dispel the darkness which is around us and within us.
Submitted by: Sr Anita Mansingh, pbvm