The Diwali Hangover

Delhi and most of North India is still hung over from the Diwali revelries. The end of four-day partying, drinking and other festivities does leave a vacuum, on top of it the trauma of returning to work. The depressing fog caused by post Diwali pollution and crop burning doesn’t make things any easier.

Diwali in Jaipur
Photo courtesy Riti Chakraborty

Diwali or Deepavali or the Festival of Light is the most important festival in India, celebrated across the country with much pomp and show. According to Hindu mythology, Diwali is celebrated to commemorate the homecoming of Lord Rama after vanquishing Ravana. To celebrate the victory of Rama over Ravana and welcome their king back home along with Lakshmana and Sita, people of Ayodhya lit up the city with earthen lamps, diyas

As per another popular belief, Lord Krishna killed the Demon Narakasura, the evil king of Pragjyotishapura, near present-day Assam and released 16000 girls captivated by Narakasura. In Karnataka Diwali is celebrated as Naraka Chaturdasi, triumph of good over evil, observing Lord Krishna’s victory over Narakasura. Interestingly, both Rama and Krishna are incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

Across north India, Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha are worshipped on the night of Diwali. Houses are cleaned and lit up. Though artificial lights are more popular nowadays, people still light diyas. New clothes, feasts, card parties, rangoli, flower decoration, crackers are important part of Diwali celebrations. However, there are lot of variations even here. For Marwaris it’s not just Lakshmi and Ganesha, they worship gold and silver coins on the night of Diwali. “Every Dhanteras we buy coins and add to our existing collection that are kept in the puja room or asana along with the deities. We worship Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha, and these coins on Diwali night,” says my Marwari friend Poonam. Largely a trader community, Marwari’s observe Bahi Khata Visarjan on Diwali (closing the old ledger and opening a new one). Thus, Diwali marks the beginning of a new financial year for this community. Marwaris also light up diyas with different oils on each day. “On Dhanteras we light up diyas with ghee, on Choti Diwali sarso ke tel ke diya and on the day of Diwali we light up diyas with teel tel.” says Poonam.

For us Bengalis, Diwali is about Kali Pujo. We worship the fearsome incarnation of Durga on the dark Diwali night. We do follow the tradition of decorating the house with diyas and lighting crackers. After moving to Delhi, I started buying clay idols of Lakshmi and Ganesh and decorating the house with flowers on Diwali. Assimilating whatever appeals to us, brings about a feeling of positivity, that’s the beauty of our traditions!

Jaisalmer

In Rajasthan, Diwali is a five day affair that starts with Dhanteras and ends with Bhai Dooj. Diwali in the cities of Rajasthan is an unforgettable experience. I was in Jaisalmer this Diwali, the golden city lit up with diyas was a sight to see. Diwali in Jaipur is a grand affair.

City Palace Jaipur
Photo courtesy Riti Chakraborty

The appeal of Diwali goes beyond religion. It’s a festival which has different cultural connotations, yet the spirit of festivity and optimism is something that is celebrated across the country, amongst different communities, a festival that is eagerly awaited each year!!

Happy Diwali, Mitti Ke Diye Wali!

Remember the days when Diwali was about earthen Diyas, making wicks the night before, pouring oil in the Diyas and getting them ready so that they could lit up the dark Diwali night. And of course, rangolis and home-made sweets and simple pathakas like phool jharis, charkis and anars. We would watch from a distance as mom and grand mom would make the wicks and get the Diyas ready. We were allowed to place the Diyas and light them once the sun went down, under the supervision of adults.

I remember lighting the Diyas and watching our house and the entire neighbourhood lit up beautifully the dark Diwali night. As kids our real challenge was trying to guard the flames from the gentle autumn breeze, stoking the wicks and ensuring the Diyas would stay lit as long as possible. Of course, the flames of Diyas lasted only a few hours. They were not as strong or colourful as the artificial lights decorating the buildings and houses during Diwali and other festivities these days, but their flickering flames had a beauty and simplicity that cannot be matched by these artificial lights!

So, let this Diwali be Mitti ke Diye Wali! These days mitti waale Diyas are available in different designs, wicks are readily available in the market, making it much easier to light a Diya. Let’s bring back the charm of those flickering flames and breathe life into the dying profession of pottery!

Making of Diyas & other decorative items: Project Why