It was Diwali few days back in India. Diwali – the festival of lights. The festival that the whole of India celebrates with fun and frolic. The festival that illuminates the country so beautifully. Having spent all my life in the south of the country, I have never given much thought on how the day is celebrated in the other parts of India. So, when I had to move to the east, it was different from what I have experienced all these years.
In Tamil Nadu, Deepavali (not Diwali) is celebrated to commemorate the victory of Lord Krishna over Narakasura. It is said that Narakasura requested a boon that the day of his death be celebrated with lights. The boon was granted and the festival Deepavali was born. In the North and the Western regions of the country, people celebrate the return of Lord Rama, the King of Ayodhya, after defeating Raavan. And the celebrations go on for 5 days.
Coming to the Eastern part of the country, I currently reside in West Bengal and the Diwali celebrations here are nowhere similar to the ones that I am accustomed to. Here, the day is set aside to worship the Goddess Kali. Huge clay idols of the Goddess are made and set into magnificent temporary pandals. The pandals are decorated beautifully in all its majestic glory, to match the grandeur of the idols. The rites and offerings to the Goddess are done at midnight, as opposed to the usual practice followed for the other Gods and Goddesses at daytime.
All the houses, shops, and buildings are decorated with strings of LED lights, starting three days before the Diwali day. The roads that are usually dark, are lit up in beautiful colours. Back in Tamil Nadu, this is not the case. Very few lamps are lit and LED lights are not used. Lamps made of mud are lit – the traditional way. It is during the day of Kaarthigai Deepam, that falls on December, that the houses are decorated with lamps.
Fireworks are another integral part of the Diwali celebrations down south. The firework stalls would be set up a month before the big day and children would throng the stalls with their parents to buy their pick of favourite fireworks. And every Diwali day, I used to wake up to the deafening sound of fireworks. All through the day, the sound of fireworks is a constant and if you are to make any phone calls, good luck with that. But here, the fervour for fireworks is not as much. I could see few stalls opened just 3 days before the festival and the noise levels are very much low – it would be just 20% of what is heard back home.
We used to have a tradition at home to go to the rooftop every Diwali night and watch the firework display going up from all the sides of the grand city. The sky would be lit up in all possible colours and we wouldn’t know which side to look. I terribly missed that here.
But, no matter which place of the country it is, no matter what the reason for the celebration it is, the fact is that it serves the purpose – spreading joy, positivity, and strengthening human relationships through the exchange of gifts and sweets. A country so diverse in its culture, but united at its core. A country that has multiple religious beliefs, but celebrates all festival together. A country that I am proud to be from – India.