Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Today was the first day of Diwali, or Dipawali, as it seems to be called in Nepal. Diwali is perhaps the biggest Hindu festival and is a big occasion every year. We've been hearing of it's impending arrival ever since we came to India. In the abstract, I think of a Hindu festival or holiday as a very traditional occasion. While this is definitely still true, Diwali is also remniscent of American holidays in how it relates to advertising. Stores have been offering "Diwali" sales, warning that we should buy now because the sale won't last past Diwali. My favorite was definitely the TV advertisement for an upcoming Bollywood film, which began with, "Coming this Diwali." Now imagine that being said by the "In a world..." movie preview guy, only with an Indian accent.

So finally today Diwali is upon us, and it is a really great holiday. Without going into the details of what Diwali actually is, I will instead write about how people celebrate, and what the atmosphere has been like here in Nepal. All day people have been setting off firecrackers and sparklers. Every household or store has also drawn a red walkway out onto the sidewalk and put a little offering on the ground. Sometimes its just a banana, but other times it is much more elaborate. The offering is always inside a circle, and depending on the artistic abilities of the family, the circle might include much more elaborate designs. It is a very beautiful tradition and it was very interesting to walk around and look at all of the drawings on the sidewalk.

Then, as the sun went down, the holiday really came alive. For starters, the firecracker ratio increased drastically, to the point where I had to put in my ear plugs as we walked around. Also, hordes of little boys would walk from store to store all singing the same chant, which from my observations might be loosely translated as, "It's a holiday so we get to ask for money. Give us some money or a treat!" In this sense, Diwali is a bit like Halloween I suppose. But the best part about this evening was the candles. Every single house and nearly every window was lit with a candle. This was made even more dramatic by the fact at the time Kathmandu was suffering from one of its constant blackouts. Normally, the blackouts (which happen literally two to three times a day) are very annoying, but with all of the candles aglow, the blackout was much welcomed.

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