November I – Holidays RedefinedDelhi, Fall 2010

November in India is one of the most memorable because it is the time of one of the most significant holidays in the Indian calender – Diwali. Diwali, also known as Deepavali, is the Festival of Lights, and is celebrated all throughout India. It is a five-day festival that celebrates the triumph and return of Lord Rama and his Wife Sita, and Laxman, from defeating the evil king Ravana. It is generally seen as the Indian New Year, and signifies the triumph of Light over Darkness, good over evil, and new beginnings. It is celebrated like a combination of thanksgiving, Christmas, and new years. People dress up (buying and wearing new things is an important part of the festival), get together, give gifts, decorate their houses with lights, burn firecrackers, and enjoy all around Merriment. All the kids in our program dressed up in our saris and went to one of the homestays for a party. We ceremoniously lit diyas (lamps), and did puja (a religious ritual). Afterwords we all ate (Andrew’s host family made a fabulous meal for everyone), and changed for firecrackers! I’m not the biggest fan of firecrackers, though I was most intrigued about the decoration on all of the boxes! The different pictures and styles of pictures on all of the packaging of the firecrackers made them seem very retro and cool! After dinner we all went out and took a turn about the neighborhood. All the houses had decorations and lights up. I didn’t take my camera because I didn’t think I could get very good pictures, and I should have!! >.< Afterwords changed clothes (out of our good clothes) and burned some firecrackers, which is one of it’s main events. For weeks before Diwali I had seen and heard cautions and requests against firecrackers for Diwali because of the noise and air pollution created during the festival itself. It didn’t dawn on me though, how bad it was going to get. The air around Delhi, and around our neighborhood was a thick miasma. You could not seen two blocks down the road due to the all of the smog and smoke in the air. It was rather astonishing – it sounded and felt a little like a war zone. There were so many firecrackers going off that there was barely a moments peace. There were some interesting differences between the firecrackers here and the ones back home. It seems that the firecrackers here are much more all about sound, rather than a plethora of lights. The big firecrackers, like the kind (at least in Iowa) that are illegal to posses without a pyrotechnical license, are easily obtainable here. However there is a kind here that appears to be the most popular, that is essentially, a flash bomb. It literally has barely any light to it, and is all sound – they simply explode. Definitely not my thing. Of course there were the traditional favorites – sparklers and snakes, and also a pretty one that, although I cannot remember the US name, here is called Chakkar, and is like a spinning top. After doing some firecrackers we all went in for some dancing and games, and then called it a night! It was the BEST Diwali, and definitely is one of the best holidays – redefined.
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