How I celebrate Diwali - Vandana

First let me tell you how I don’t celebrate Deepavali – by lighting firecrackers! Even as a kid the only firecracker I liked was the little black button-like item that, when lit, rose to take the shape of a snake. It was fun to see that transformation, not to mention fun to see whose snake rose to greater heights. I remember getting a bit scared of even the simple sparkler, as I was afraid the sparks would fall on my hand. For the same reason, I would prefer to watch the fountain firecrackers from afar rather than getting too near to light them. The firecrackers I hated the most were what are called ‘lavangis’ – those red and white sticks attached in a long string – and the awful bombs.

My Diwali preparations begin a few days ahead of the actual festival, when I remove old planks of wood that I have preserved over the years and touch them up with brown ‘gheru’ to make rangoli designs on them. Then begins the hunt for the rangoli design books, the box of packets containing the rangoli powder, and the diyas. Last year my sister bought two unusual diyas at an exhibition in Chennai. These clay diyas have to be immersed in water for a day; next day, you pour oil in the diya through a hole at the bottom. Put right way up again, the oil does not flow out! The cotton wick is put in a tiny spout at the side and when lit the diya looks beautiful.

As for sweetmeats, my mother and aunt used to make traditional food at home, known as ‘faraal’ – karanjis, ladoos, shankarpalli, sev, chaklis, etc. As kids, I and my sisters used to help out sometimes, more often than not slyly eating a few pieces! Over the years, the enthusiasm has faded long since and now we simply feast on store-bought items.

On each of the five days of Diwali, I sweep and clean up the space outside our door. Then I use the readymade plastic designs to make small rangolis of flowers, diyas, peacocks, etc. on the dark black tiles that border the home’s threshold. With coloured rangoli powder I brighten the designs. In the afternoon, I sit in a corner, spread out a newspaper and make a full-sized rangoli design on the ready wood piece. On all the five days I generally make a different design. This is one enthusiastic aspect of Diwali that I do with zest ever year.

On the day of Lakshmi puja, we put up a new ‘toran’ of golden marigold flowers & mango leaves above the door to usher in luck. A small string of the same flowers are tied around the tap and the steel water storage drums. A few items of gold jewellery are kept at the place of worship and the main diya there is lit. In the evening, I light 11 diyas. Normally, an even number of diyas are lit, but Lakshmi puja day is extra special. The diyas are lit just before the Goddess enters, the time being noted in advance as mentioned on our Kalnirnay calendar. The door of the house is left open for the Goddess to enter and is closed only after about one hour or even more. A special sweet is prepared on this day. It does not need to be elaborate – it could be as simple as poha with jaggery.

Diwali is also a time to spread the light of happiness around. We give a little cash to those who make our lives so much easier – servants, the building sweeper, the postmen, etc. After all, we get bonus from our bosses too! I also visit a few of my relatives and invite my friends over to my home.

After the festival of lights is over, I apply fresh gheru to all the diyas to keep them ready for our next festival – Gudi Paadva.


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