Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Diwali!

Yesterday was India's biggest Hindu holiday - Diwali!

As with all Hindu holidays, it seems, the backstory of Diwali depends on who you ask. In general, Diwali is the celebration of the triumph of good over evil. Also it has to do with the goddess of wealth, maybe. And it's also the new year, but only to certain people in certain parts of India. Oh Hinduism, you're so confusing to me.

In terms of scale, fervor and celebratory style, Diwali is to India what Christmas is to the U.S. People deck their houses with fairy lights (read: Christmas lights), stores bustle with shoppers buying gifts for family and friends, there are parties every night, and there's a big emphasis on sharing of dessert foods. Also like Christmas, it's very much a family holiday, celebrated in the home. Or on the street in front of the home, as it were...

Diwali being the festival of lights, and India being a country of relatively few safety regulations, the holiday is celebrated in part by lighting firecrackers. Gigantic, loud, terrifying firecrackers. I'm talking about massive fireworks worthy of 4th of July in DC, being shot off in front of every house. For the last several nights, it has sounded like a war zone in my neighborhood. What it does to the air quality is horrendous, but the fireworks really are quite beautiful.

My celebrations were pretty low key. I spent the day with the Ks, then in the evening went to a friend's apartment in a very tall building, where we had an amazing view of the fireworks being set off all across the city. When I got home, my roommate and I sat out on our balcony and lit the candles our neighbor had given us (along with a bottle of wine!) as a Diwali gift. It was a lovely way to spend my first Diwali in India.

Apartments decked out in Diwali lights.

Candles on my porch.