Diwali (5 Nov)

New! Video added!

We headed back to New Delhi and Suhail’s cousin, Clarissa, just in time to celebrate Diwali. I knew a bit about the holiday, but did not realize how enthusiastically it is celebrated. It is one of the most important holidays in the Hindu calendar, and it was easy to see the scale is similar to that of Christmas in the west with the level of commercialization not too far behind. Check out the video at the bottom of this post to see the chaos Suhail shot at a couple of fabric shops as the holiday approached.

Diwali is known as the festival of light, where the light is represented with the same type of Italian Christmas lights we use, clay lanterns filled with ghee and, most enthusiastically, firecrackers. Bangs, squeaks and squeals are heard EVERYWHERE from the time it gets dark in the evening until the sun comes up the next morning. According Wikipedia,  the overall theme of Diwali is the emergence “from darkness into light — the light that empowers us to commit ourselves to good deeds, that which brings us closer to divinity.”

All dressed up…

Clarissa and her friends, Reema and Swayam, were nice enough to include us in their celebration of the Lakshmi puja, so we were able to learn a bit more about the holiday. I agreed to wear a sari because Clarissa told me all the girls would be dressed up. In the end, only Reema and I wore saris, but the ladies did indeed all look lovely (with the others infinitely more comfortable than me!). I did not mind so much, however, because Clarissa lent me an incredible beautiful sari (and helped me put it on, of course) and I realized it would be my last opportunity to look nice for quite some time!

Kaju Sweets

After we distributed ghee lanterns throughout the patio and stairs leading up to their flat, Reema led a puja or prayer offering to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Lanterns and candles are used to shed light onto Lakshmi’s path so she can find her way to the home. Hindus fast until after the puja and observe other special dietary practices during the whole of Diwali. For example, the special sweets we ate were made without ghee (which is generally one of the main ingredients in Indian sweets). Delicious and adorable, these sweets are similar both in taste and appearance to the marzipan eaten in Europe, but made with cashews instead of almonds.
Suhail and I felt very fortunate to share this holiday with everyone. Being able to experience the traditions and customs of other cultures first hand makes us so happy we are traveling!

Click to enlarge each image below or visit the full set on Flickr here.

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