This weekend India will celebrate Diwali. And preparations for the festival are in full swing. Homes are being scrubbed squeaky clean. Renovated houses are getting last minute paint jobs. Traders – both online and offline – are running promotional offers. And all of us are busy shopping for clothes and gifts!
The most important aspect of the festival, of course, are the lights. With every nook and corner being illuminated, the streets are one of the most beautiful sights to see this time of the year. Even the most common, everyday routes we take, turn glamourous.
As I was walking near a popular market a few days back, lights caught my eye from behind the trees. I would normally just walk past the glittery market, but this time, I took a detour just to soak in the festive ambience.
Unfortunately, Diwali is also the worst possible time to head out because pollution levels skyrocket. It’s a shame that noisy and noxious crackers are still so popular. I’ll admit we used to burst crackers as children too. And it’s been years since we stopped. I hope you, my dear reader, will refrain from contributing to the pollution levels this year and enjoy the sights without the sounds.
Update: Big Bazaar does a fabulous job of getting the message across with their paper patakha ad. Check this out:
Here’s wishing you a very happy, prosperous and safe Diwali.
To see more shiny posts from around the globe, head over the the Daily Post.
One of the major attractions in Gwalior is the Saas-Bahu ka Mandir. In Hindi, saas translates to mother-in-law and bahu is the daughter-in-law.
The strange name is believed to be a convenient short form for sahasrabahu – meaning thousand arms. The two temples in the complex are covered with beautiful, intricate carvings of geometric patterns, animal motifs and dancing figures. Some claim that one temple is for Lord Vishnu, while the other is for Lord Shiva. There is also some confusion as to whether they are Hindu temples at all. What is widely agreed to, is that the larger one is definitely the saas, and the smaller one, the bahu!
This photograph of the smaller temple was taken inside the larger temple.
If you intend visiting, be sure you have enough battery and memory to click pictures. We know we didn’t stop with one 😉
To see how bloggers across the blogosphere are framing their points of view, check out this week’s Photo Challenge
The phone rang at 3:30 am. The voice of the driver was impatient. “It’s getting late! No no… I don’t know who told you 4 am. We need to leave now. We’ll get stuck in a traffic jam!”
A traffic jam at 4 am? Oh well, we were already up. We scrambled and managed to leave just a few minutes before 4.
The blinding curves on the mountain were dark and quiet. But just after two turns, another car joined our route. In another 15 minutes we had more company.
By the time we reached the base of Tiger Hill, we were at the tail end of a massive car line. The driver took shortcuts off the road to jump ahead. But as we reached higher ground, there was only one road.
“How far is it from here? Can we walk it?” The driver nodded confidently. We hopped out. It was a race against the sunrise. We joined at least fifty other people who were already trekking uphill at a fast pace.
After close to two kilometres of jogging and walking, we managed to reach the top of the hill, where a huge crowd was staring into the distance, camera in hand, waiting expectantly.
“Don’t worry, the sunrise will be only at 6:30! Plenty of time! Yesterday the view was very good. Today let’s hope the fog lifts with the sun! Here, you must be tired. Have some coffee!” The coffee sellers were busy catering to the captive, sleep deprived and hungry clientele.
The day was in full bloom. And yet the coffee seller coolly said it would take another half an hour for the ‘sunrise’.
“Whooooaaaah!” A section of the crowd began cheering, as if having spotted a celebrity. The fans began climbing on every possible vantage point. The paparazzi were clicking away.
We looked in the direction of the cameras. In the distance, an uninterested orange sphere looked into the mist.
Funnily, the crowd seemed to have forgotten for a while, why they were actually atop Tiger Hill. For it was not the sun we were waiting for. It was the promised breathtaking view of the Himalayas drenched in golden sunshine in the opposite direction.
That promised view was sleeping snuggly under a thick white blanket.
Hundreds of travelers from across the globe waited and stared into the white abyss. The mist didn’t budge.
We were severely disappointed. For the fifth straight day Mt. Kanchenjunga eluded us. As the crowd began dispersing, we caught sight of a few foreign tourists. We pitied them. At least we were still in our country. These folks had come from much farther away. But they were still cheerful. Two of them even held up a large photograph of the mountain range and posed for pictures!
We took their cue and brushed our disappointment aside. It was only while we were walking downhill that we took notice of the picturesque route leading to the viewpoint. In the darkness during our ascent and in our hurry to reach the top of the hill, we had missed the flowering trees and the web of prayer flags above the road.
We missed the golden Kanchenjunga, but we walked away with a handful of other memories. Hopefully, one day we can get back up there. For now though, we have a string prayer flags hanging at our doorstep, to remind us of the things we didn’t miss.
While I was in Chennai last year, I received a message from a friend of mine:
‘So are you coming tomorrow?’
‘I’m in Chennai right now’, I replied.
‘Ooh Margazhi. Have fun!’
I didn’t understand what she meant by that. I had visited Chennai during the winter months a few times in the past, but apart from the pleasant weather, I couldn’t think of any other reason to enjoy. I soon found out.
The Tamil month of Margazhi* is considered highly auspicious. For those who are religiously inclined, Margazhi is a month of lots of pujas — temples open much earlier and devotees visit in large numbers for the special pujas. But that was not what my friend, an ardent follower of performing arts, meant.
Margazhi is a cultural extravaganza, a haven for fans of the classical arts, with hundreds of Kutcheries — music and dance concerts — organised throughout the month. Margazhi is, in fact, now synonymous with the music festival.
Chennai takes its music seriously, and audiences don’t clap unless the performance is very good. I found that out on our last day in Chennai, when we spent close to six hours in one auditorium, listening to back-to-back musical performances (for free)!
Even those not interested in the arts — and there are probably few of those in Chennai — cannot escape the Margazhi season, for the art overflows on the streets. Take a walk in the interior parts of residential areas. The Kolams that are drawn at door-steps of every house are much bigger and colourful. The kolams at the temples, though, were my favourite. These are from the Chidambaram temple:
Kolam at Chidambaram Temple
One of the twin kolams along the side of the entrance of Chidambaram Temple
And if you are not interested in art, well then there’s always the sea. The cool sea breeze, on the cool sand is the perfect place to relax.
Yes, Margazhi is the time to visit Tamil Nadu.
*Margazhi begins in mid-December and ends in mid-January. The Corresponding Sanskrit name is Mārgaṣīrṣa. After the end of this month, the harvest festival of Pongal (which falls on Makar Sankranti) is celebrated. The festival marks beginning of Uttarayan – the beginning of the sun’s ascent, signifying the beginning of the end of winter.
The images in this post are my entries for this week’s Photo Challenge. To see more symmetrical images, check out the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.