It’s festival time in India. Time to celebrate, time to take a break and enjoy the festivities, time to satisfy your sweet cravings, time for togetherness, time for family.
This was the first time I was far away from home and thus missed everything about it. Though I celebrated here with my husband and daughters but still a part of my heart was there in India.
Last month was Navratri, a beautiful festival of 9 holy days when different forms of Goddess Durga are worshipped every day. It is believed that the Goddess will take all their pains away and fill their lives with happiness, strength and prosperity. Since childhood, me and my brother used to be very excited for this festival as my Mom used to fast on these days and cook many delicacies. I continued the rituals of my family and celebrated it to the best possible away this time too. On the 8th day, we invite 9 little girls to our home, wash their feet, offer food and gifts to them as they are treated as various forms of the Goddesses. I performed this ritual with both my daughters only.
These days are celebrated with great joy and happiness across India. People dress up in their best ethnic attires studded with mirrors and stones and play Garba, a folk dance from the state of Gujarat in which people dance with sticks in their hands. I badly missed this part this year.
The 10th and last day of Navratri is Dusshera, a Hindu festival which is celebrated for the victory of goodness over the evil. It is believed that many years ago, on this day, God Rama killed the demon Ravana. It is also known by the names of Dasara and Vijayadashmi is different parts of India. People worship God Rama along with their tools, weapons and stationary this day.
Next was Karwachauth, a one day festival when wives fast for their husbands, from sunrise till moonrise. They get up at dawn, take bath and dress up well in Indian attire, preferably red, orange, yellow, green colored saree or salwar kameez, wear all the fortunate ornaments like bangles, anklets, necklace, toe rings, rings, bindi, sindoor etc. Then they eat the first meal of the day before sunrise only. This includes fruits and sweets. After this meal, they do not eat or drink anything till moonrise. In the afternoon, they perform a pooja where all the married and sometimes unmarried females too sit in a circle and exchange their plates while singing a sacred song. Unmarried females fast for their fiance or for marrying a suitable match. They keep fruits, nuts or a gift in their plates which they give to their mother in law after the rituals. If someone does not have a mom in law unfortunately, they give it to any elderly female. It is the most favourite day for the ladies in India who fast, as they get a lot of time to pamper themselves and dressing up in the fineries. After moonrise, females worship moon, offer water and sweet to it, then see the moon with a sieve. And then turn towards her husband or fiance and look at them through the sieve and touch their feet. Husband, in turn, bless her and offer her water and make her eat some sweet to open the fast. Now the wives are free to eat whatever they want. I personally find it very romantic festival when the couple expresses their love for each other in front of the family (which is not so common in India). Nowadays, few husbands have also started fasting for their better halves, breaking the stereotype. We can thank our daily TV soaps for this gesture.
Within a week of Karwachauth, there is another festival Ahoi Ashtami, in which mothers fast for the safety and long life of their children. They worship stars in the night, offer sweets to God Ganpati and then open the fast in the night. No doubt, females in India have a strong will power to celebrate these fasts like festivals being hungry throughout the day. Kudos!
After 21 days of Dussehra, there is a festival of lights – Diwali or Deepawali. It is believed that Lord Rama along with his wife and brother returned back, after 14 years of staying in the forest, to his home Ayodhya, now a pilgrimage in UP. It is my favourite festival as it’s full of love, lights, sweets and happiness. It is celebrated with huge pompous and joy in India. People extensively clean their houses, sometimes even whitewash them, decorate their homes with the best possible ways using lights, earthen lamps, candles, flowers and murals too. At the entrance of the houses, we prepare rangoli which is considered to be a fortunate custom as it is believed that Goddess Laxmi (Goddess of money) comes down to the Earth from the Heaven in the night of Diwali and enters the most beautiful and clean houses and stay there. Hence people leave no stone unturned in beautifying their houses. Various sweets are cooked this day and offered to the Goddess Laxmi and God Ganpati in the night during the pooja. Lotus flower is also offered along with sweets, other flowers, mango leaves etc. People worship the new utensils which they bought on Dhanteras, which is celebrated two days before Diwali. People buy utensils, gold, silver coins, jewellery as it is treated as blissful. So all such new belongings are worshipped then after pooja, people burn crackers irrespective of their age. Kids, adults everyone wait every year for this festival so that they can burn crackers and enjoy. Later, people visit friends and families and share gifts, sweets and other delicacies. I tried my hand for the first time on jalebis (pic below) and it turned out well in taste, will work on the looks next time 😉
I’m getting so nostalgic while writing this. Missing family, missing home, missing being there with them, missing everything, Wish to celebrate all these festivals at home, back in India next year.
No, the list of the festivals is yet not ceased, rest festivals in the next blog. Happy reading till then.