Monday, 12 November 2012

The Festival of Lights

It's Diwali! I liked this festival a lot more when I was younger and immune to the startle reaction of over-loud fireworks. I also liked it more last year, when I did not know that it's a bad idea to make a breakfast of the plateful of home-made sweets my neighbours bring over every Diwali morning.

A garland of marigold at my neighbour's front door (and yes, a leftover Christmas decoration from last year!)

 Diwali is by and large a Hindu festival, although I believe
that Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains also celebrate it (that's what
President Obama said so it must be right!) The Festival of Lights ..
and it is quite a sight. A lot of people will set off fireworks tonight
and tomorrow night - I love going up on my terrace to watch
the rockets being set off from all four directions. Even from
a distance, it's lovely to watch their beautiful explosions
of light and colour. Some are pretty complex (Made In China,
I've heard) and those are the most expensive and the most
ah-inspiring. Tonight, thousands if not lakhs (that's a hundred
thousand to non-Indian currency users) will go up in smoke.

What I don't love about Diwali is the noise created from strings
of little (or big!) red firecrackers or the ones packed tightly and
given appropriately lethal names like "Atom Bomb". These set off
car alarms, drive stray dogs into gutters and pet dogs into
anxiety disorders. They terrify babies and unsettle the elderly.
They make heart patients nervous, and PTSD sufferers nauseated.
And their tattered remains will decorate the streets tomorrow morning,
adding to the already nearly-at-breaking-point garbage problem
that sits soggy and stinking on practically every street corner.

As far as I know, this type of cracker has very little to do with
Diwali. It's the Festival of Lights, right? Not the Festival of Noise,
or the Festival of Make-Life-Hell-for-Everyone-Else. There are
some restrictions set down by the police and/or government,
but these are largely ignored or unenforceable, and fireworks
are sold freely like some seasonal vegetable in large open
courtyard markets set up around the city.

Over the past few years, fireworks sales have been going down,
though, largely due to greater public awareness of the
environmental damage and the nuisance factor. A few years ago,
Diwali morning would be grey and choked. I'm hoping tomorrow
won't be that bad, because as I write this, I don't hear a non-stop
string of explosions that lasts for several hours, as I did say,
five years ago.

I like to think that means more people are showing compassion
for their fellowmen/women/dogs/cats/cows/birds/etc. And showing
respect, not only for their city/nation/planet, but for the festival
itself:  for Diwali.

I read this today, and I thought it was a beautiful description
of what Diwali is meant to be.

"Diwali or Deepavali is the Festival of Lights. On this day, 
Hindus decorate their homes with light, using candles, 
earthern lamps or electric lights.  Light symbolizes the removal 
of inner darkness, as well as the glow of knowledge that can lead 
mankind from illusion and ignorance to an understanding of truth. 
The essence of Diwali, very simply, is a prayer for an enlightened world."

That's from an article The Essence of Diwali by Mark Sharma; if you'd like to read the complete article, click here.

A clay diya with oil and a cotton wick, outside my neighbour's front door.
I think that is such a beautiful concept. What a pretty, simple
and sweet way to remind oneself of the importance and value
of this kind of light in our lives.

I'm not a Hindu, but tonight I am celebrating Diwali. I'm off now,
to place candles at my doorstep and on my balcony as a symbol
of inviting goodness and light into my home and heart, tonight and always.

No comments: