Diwali in India (…no big deal)

Diwali (festival of lights or literally “a row of lamps”) has been going on for the past week and I have experienced this important religious tradition mostly through loud noises and smoke in the street as people light firecrackers everywhere. My host family is Christian and so typically do not celebrate the holiday besides having the week off of school. (Most of my information about Diwali is therefore coming off of the internet). However, since I was staying with them, they did what they could to demonstrate what it meant for others.

I was told that common practice during Diwali is to play cards with family and friends and to go around and offer gifts to loved ones. A former driver of my hosts came to drop off a box of chocolates, which is a common gift for just about everything. Re-gifting is also a common (although probably not spoken) practice. General service people, such as the mail deliverer, have the opportunity to ask for a larger tip “in the spirit of Diwali.”

I mainly participated on Diwali day through decorating the house and watching Lakshmi puja (a prayer ceremony for Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity).

We started the day off early by going to the flower market (early because it’s best to do things in the morning or evening so as to avoid the hottest part of the day). The flower market was described as the most hectic market in Mumbai by my host. The drive there was almost as hectic (there really are no rules on the road, you just do what you must to get through the crowds of other cars, rickshaws (passenger carts), and people).

IMG_20141023_085000 IMG_20141023_085344

The most popular colours to make flower malas (flowers strung together) seem to be orange and yellow

IMG_20141023_090028 IMG_20141023_090159 IMG_20141023_090234IMG_20141023_090713 IMG_20141023_090728

Carrying-items-on-head skillage.

IMG_20141023_090845

The host grandfather mentioned that this women had covered her hair for modesty when he walked up.

IMG_20141023_091042 IMG_20141023_091436

Indian taxi-cabs don’t scrimp on colour and design.

IMG_20141023_092048

Street vegetable sales.. with some I have never seen before!

 —

I then had the privilege of making a flower mala and decorating the entranceway of my host’s home.

IMG_20141023_120223_1

IMG_20141023_132949 IMG_20141023_133004IMG_20141023_133109

A tradition is to decorate with flowers and little clay lamps (bowls) to put oil and candles in. These light the way into the home for the goddess of good fortune.

IMG_8469IMG_8485IMG_20141023_182627IMG_8495IMG_8477Next was the puja (prayer) ceremony, which included garnishing and pouring milk on the idols, circling a tray with  candle around the prayer table, being blessed by the priest and receiving a thread around your wrist and an offering of fruit and sweets. I was lucky enough to be invited to the neighbours’ for this ceremony.

IMG_8513 IMG_8520IMG_8526

Last, but not least are the light shows to ward off evil spirits. This includes fireworks and sparklers. I have never stood so close to fireworks before. The discarded pieces remain in the streets. They were all entirely lit by hand (and/or by sparkler), although a cultural tradition, still not everyone was comfortable with doing this.

IMG_8548 IMG_8577 IMG_8620 IMG_8621

Before, during, and after all of these events there were hoards of people lighting fireworks and sparklers everywhere. The bangs went long into the night and began early in the morning (including the first night I arrived in India at 4am).

Diwali was absolutely incredible and I am so grateful that I was able to celebrate it WHILE IN INDIA (…no big deal). I cannot express how amazing it was to stay with a host family and now that I have arrived on campus (blog post to follow), I feel even luckier to have had that opportunity.

More adventure stories to come.

Until next time,

Vrindy

Leave a Reply