Diwali is the biggest holiday festival in India. Though it has Hindu origins everybody celebrates it. I’ve been asked a lot what Diwali is. There are short, medium, long and very long explanations. In short, it celebrates the triumph of good over evil. It takes place over five days. Day one, yesterday, celebrates Rama’s return to Ayudya from exile and fighting the demon, Ravenna. Search “Ramayana” for the complete story in Hindu mythology. Lamps are lit to show him the way home, presents are given and gifts are given. Day two celebrates Krishna’s victory over the tyrant Narakasura, another demon. Asura at the end of any name means demon, as in a-sura. Day three is devoted to Lakshmi, Vishnu’s consort and the goddess of prosperity. Day four is devoted to the friendly demon, Bala. Day five is good luck day.
There are many stories to go along with all this. Diwali is the “Festival of Lights”. It’s a long story, but basically in Hindu tradition, it was prophecized that a king’s son would die four days after his marriage at 16 from a snakebite. The bite happened on schedule. So the new wife piled up silver and jewels and lit candles to make it all sparkle. She then kept her husband up all night singing to him. the goddess of death came but was so taken with the sparkling jewels and lovely singing, she wiled away the night sitting on the pile, then left without taking the man. So, it’s now the biggest holiday, full of gift giving, lights (especially floating candles in little boats where there is water) and fireworks, sparklers and firecrackers or small bombs. Everybody’s family gets together. It’s like Christmas.
Another reason for the symbolism of lights is celebrating Laksmi’s emergence into the world. One version of her coming into being is she emerged from a lotus floating on the primordial sea of chaos, bringing the world into existed, bringing light into the world, so to speak. For Hindu’s this story is equivalent to the biblical “Let there be light”. hindy stories are myriad, often contradictory, which is not a problem for them. The other way she came into the world is from a lotus growing from the navel of Vishnu.
So, the way I spent last night was sitting on the roof of my hotel, where there is a 270 degree panorama of the city, drinking whiskey with a bunch of the guests and the hotel staff. We listened to thousands of firecrackers and bombs, like the old M-80’s, go off, and watched the most fantastic night of fireworks, by far, I’ve seen in my life. It started at 7 PM and was still going on at 1 AM when I put in my earplugs and went to bed. There were thousands of skyrockets and flares all around, near and far. It was incessant. The hotel guys and a couple of guests set some off from the roof. It was something else.
These look like Hubbel telescope pictures, don’t they? I love my camera.