Monday, November 9, 2020

A Whiff of Diwali


The festival of lights is just around the corner. No matter what, it is the time of year when one wants to break free from routine and indulge in some fun and merry-making. The times have changed and so have the ways of celebration. In the older times, it was mostly a simple affair though the festivities lasted longer. It would not be incorrect to draw a comparison of a five-day Cricket test match vis a vis a one day limited over- game as in present times. The festivities would commence from Dhanteras, followed with Narkachaturdesi or Chotti Diwali, the grand d-day Diwali, Bhai Duj and culminating with Goverdhan Puja. Depending on the region where one lives in the country, it may get extended to Chaat- Puja in Bihar, Kali puja in East India, Narkachaturdasi in South India and several variations.  

As small kids, the Dusshera festival used to set us in the mood of celebration for Diwali which was still twenty days away. Lighting crackers now and then, eating endless sweets mostly prepared at home, getting new clothes stitched, assisting in cleaning the house and helping the parents in petty errands kept us busy. In those times getting new clothes was looked forward to as we would get them only on our birthday, or on Diwali/ Holi or maybe on close family weddings. As we grew a bit older, a visit to Paharganj in Delhi became a ritual to buy the ingredients for making our own 'Anar'( the sparkler to be lit up on Diwali night). We would buy small lights from the Bhaigirath Palace in Chandni Chowk to make our own electric string lights. It was a tedious job but the excitement never diminished. After invariably getting a few electric shocks while testing the lights, they would finally light up the house and the balcony or verandah. Sometimes we would be running with a phase tester even at the eleventh hour to fix a defaulting string that would misbehave when least expected. We would also decorate the house with buntings and ' Kandeels'( Wooden decorative lanterns) built with a lot of effort using cardboard, glazed paper and bamboo sticks. In between, we would stare at mom who would prepare, Gujias, Besan Barfi, Kachoris, Dal Samosas, Mathri, Besan Sev, Fried Chana Dal, Gur Paras and many more things at home, while my father assisted. We never purchased sweets from outside, a tradition which my wife and I carried on many years later. In the evening on the Diwali day, a puja with silver coin having an image of goddess Laxmi would be used to offer, milk, curd, puffed rice( Kheel), sugar candy(Batasha). We would then be given some money as a blessing by our parents or grandparents followed with a round of touching the feet of elders. This would be followed by lighting the house with candles and earthen diyas. The sweets would be shared with friends and relatives with gusto. I remember waiting eagerly for the steaming idlis, sambar, chutney, Mysore Pak and other delicacies from our neighbours hailing from Chennai, on the morning of Narkachaturdasi and  Luchis, Aloo Dum and Chana Dal from the Bengali neighbour's post-Kali Puja. They were times with innocent fun. I remember just after my marriage my wife went to give sweets to our neighbours and they, in turn, brought a tray full of sweets to offer to her. She picked up the whole tray and the face of the lady turned ashen realizing that the entire tray would be gone! After my marriage when I was posted out of Delhi while serving the Navy, the tradition of making homemade sweets and savouries was carried out by my wife and often exceeded the varieties I had been eating when I was single! 

On the day of Bhai Duj all cousins, uncle and aunts would assemble at my Bua's place where Bhai Duj and Goverdahan Puja were celebrated on the same day. There would be more than fifty-six types of food ( Chappan Bhog) offered to the lord during the puja in which everyone participated. The food indulgence used to peak on this day with the possibility of missing out on tasting some variety even if one took just a spoon full of all that was laid out. This was the norm every year till my Bua left for the USA to stay with her own children who had settled there. 

Over the years a sea change has occurred and I see families spending many times more than what we could ever imagine. Eating in classy restaurants, endless buying of clothes, and commercial goods from the well-stocked malls, supermarkets, and web portals are the new norm. Very little time is spent in the rituals and pujas and like a twenty-twenty Cricket match, the curtain comes down only to announce the next sale due to commence for oncoming Christmas! As the world has become a global village, chocolates, exotic foods, branded clothes, cars and jewellery have taken the stage. As for everything else in life, 'change is the only constant', so is it for Diwali celebrations and enjoying these in the same manner as simplicity of the yesteryears.

PS All pics are mine


  1. Even we follow the tradition of making a sweet during the festivals especially Diwali. But yes, the elaborate preparations of such laid out delicacies could happen only in our home town's when the houses thronged with all relatives coming over for the celebrations. Something which the new advanced times have swallowed out.

    All the sweets names and the food mentions made my mouth water and also made me think what should I be making this time for Diwali far from home!

    1. Thanks Ira for the beautiful comment. I am sure you did have a sparkling Diwali, away from home. Have a great time ahead

  2. As you've said, it's Kalipuja in East India, but the rituals are more or less the same. And, obviously, the changes occurred in the same way. I miss those old childhood days but yes, change is the only this constant... :-)
    Hope you had a nice time this year...

    1. Thanks a lot Maniparna for reading the post. I am happy that you could relate to the festivities on the occassion, during your growing up years! The pleasent memories always stay with us. Hope you too enjoyed the festival with your family/