I am so excited about visiting India after 11 years of living in the US, and that too at the exciting time of Diwali. From streets and houses brightly lit up with diyas (earthen lamps) to a spectacular display of fireworks around every corner, the festival of lights is what makes me feel at home. Having been away in the States with my hubby, I really miss my sisters, friends and parents during this occasion. Truth be told, I have also been yearning to spend some time with my in-laws and what better occasion to celebrate than this!
No doubt, the festival is observed in varying ways in different parts of the country, but let me tell you how elaborate and fun it is in North India. With my partner’s paternal home in Delhi, I’m quite thrilled for the festivities preceding it.
Karwa Chauth, for that matter, is the most important occasion for married women in the north Indian Hindu community. It has been observed at my in-laws’ home for generations. Celebrated for the longevity of the husband according to traditions, it is for us women in the house to observe a ‘Nirjala Vrat’. In other words, fasting from sunrise until the moon comes up.
Since, I don’t get a reason to put on ethnic clothes as much in the US, this occasion in India is perfect. Delhi has several shopping spots for buying festive wear. For Karwa Chauth, I decided to head towards Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk area, which is well known for affordable shops. Just walking down its narrow streets was nostalgic for me. One such was the Lehenga House, which sells beautiful lehengas at bang-for-the-buck prices.
The occasion of Dhanteras, celebrated two days before the occasion of Diwali, is also filled with fun. It is believed that if ornaments in gold or silver are brought into the house, it is appeasing the Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, who brings good luck. But, this is also the time when the sought-after jewellery stores in Karol Bagh, Lajpat Nagar and Chandni Chowk are extremely crowded. For me, that is quite familiar.
I’m also quite excited about decorating the floors – known as rangoli – along with everyone in the house on the next day. The day following that is Diwali, when diyas on the windowsills and floors are going to amplify the beauty of our home. This, in fact, reminds me of the Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations in the States. With the sound and sight of firecrackers and all our relatives and friends visiting us, it will be a joyous day and indeed, heartwarming.
Another occasion that I don’t want to miss is Dev Deepawali in Varanasi. It is held fifteen days after Diwali celebrations on the day of the full moon in the Kartik month of the Hindu lunar calendar. I still don’t forget the last time I was with my husband in the ancient city on this day. All the ghats along the Ganga River look beautiful. While in the morning, devotees take a dip in the holy river, during the evening, the ghats are lit up with gazillions of diyas. The awe-inspiring views of the illuminated ghats when we took a boat ride were quite memorable.
The festival of lights is indeed a wonderful time to spend quality time with loved ones. In Delhi and other parts of north India, the celebrations before and after it are utterly beautiful, giving you all the more reasons to immerse in the lovely culture.