Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Diwali!

Last night marked the new year according to the Hindu calendar with a celebration of Diwali, also known as the festival of lights. According to the Hindu calendar it's now the year 2069! This festival is known for lighting small clay lots with oil that represent the triumph of good over evil. The lamps are placed everywhere with seemingly no pattern, leaving small glowing fluttering flames dotting stairs, cars, streets, and windows. People throughly clean their homes and purchase new clothes and gifts for family members. Sweets are also an important element to this festival and are shared amongst family and friends. Sweet shops line the streets with rows upon rows and heaping piles of sickly sweet syrupy Indian treats tempting you. I like the sweets here, but find them quite sweet yet a little bland.
When I decided to go to India I had no idea it was during Diwali, but I got really excited when I learned this just before my arrival. I always find it interesting being in a place during a major holiday or festival. The days leading up to the festival were crazy everywhere. People cleaning like crazy, milling around markets purchasing gifts, kids lighting firecrackers left and right (much to my eardrums dismay). As each day passed you could feel the Diwali craziness a little more. In Udiapur the whole town was decorated with strings of lights. Cascading down streets, hanging off houses, dangling from windows. Small clay pots lit with oil dotted every flat surface possible. I actually came close to lighting myself on fire a few times! People lined the street and were actually queueing orderly to visit and bring offerings to the goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth.
On the morning of Diwali we sadly left Udiapur for Pushkar, the second holiest Hindu site in India. This town is known for being a pilgrimage site, the next popular to Varanasi. I will admit to Pushkar being a bit of a let down. Udiapur was decorated so beautifully and there were so many people about and it wasn't the same in Pushkar. The festival is typical celebrated in the home, but I guess I assumed that there would be more going on in such a holy town for a major festival. Not that I didn't have a great night, I did, it just wasn't quite what I was expecting. Our tour leader organized traditional clothing for us. I wore a lovely and vibrant yellow shirt and skirt with a brightly beaded pink sari. Complete with my henna from the prior day and I felt very native. It was great to see the whole group dressed up, including the guys with their bright turbans balanced on their heads. Our tour leader even arranged for some rum, though drinking isn't typically associated with Diwali. Between the giddiness of the costumes, the rum, and the Bollywood music we had to jam along to during dinner the group was in high spirits. After dinner we lit fireworks and sparklers on the roof. This holiday reminds me of Christmas, new years, and Halloween. People give gifts and gather with family and friends, fireworks are very popular, and we got dressed up. It was a great night and a great memory for India. 

1 comment:

  1. You looked sooooo beautiful in your outfit!!! Loved the pics!! Miss you and have a safe flight back to the states