Driving around Nagpur during a Diwali night is an almost magical experience. Pavements are decorated with beautiful multi coloured mandalas (rangoli) whilst shops, homes and temples are lit up with the tiny flames of a thousand clay oil lamps (diya) as the sky bursts open with sparkles and shimmers. Stalls line the streets with small clay statues of Goddess Lakshmi, coloured powers and fireworks for sale. Diwali is the festival of lights and it is definitely a festival of many lights, your eyes cannot escape the warm and inviting glow of fairy lights and lanterns.
Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains, and depending on where you are in India, Diwali traditions differ. Nagpur is the centre point of India and we have many communities living here from across India. We were lucky enough to attend a beautiful, loud and vibrant Bengali Diwali celebration honouring the Goddess Kali (Goddess of revolution and power) before attending a Maharashtrian ceremony (pooja) for Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of prosperity and wealth) with our family.
The soothing mantras of the Goddess Lakshmi pooja were punctuated by the blasts and crackles of the fireworks starting outside. Once the priest left, we went to the roof to watch the neighbour’s children enjoy sparklers and fountains, and watched the nights sky come to life until I had a headache.
Alfonso was very brave during the celebrations, hiding in the pleats of my saree, but he wasn’t impressed that he couldn’t wander on the terrace (one of his favourite pastimes). Alfonso is pretty fearless because he knows he is safe, but I really felt for the cows and dogs who live outside. It must be a terrifying and confusing time for them all. Fireworks look gorgeous but sadly the noise and air pollution is painful.
I hope next year’s celebrations are as bright and beautiful but much quieter. I think everyone should experience Diwali in India at least once in their lives (yes, this is a hint to all of my lovely friends and family, Diwali celebrations will start on the 30th of October next year, I’m giving you plenty of notice).