Ruchi’s back! And this time she’s sharing more about her Diwali celebrations in India. We decided this would be a fun and interesting post to share since I honestly didn’t do too much for the holiday this year (being away from family will do that to you!). Enjoy!
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Growing up in the States, we celebrated Diwali quite differently than how I’m being taught to celebrate it here in Kolkata. I say ‘taught’ because many of the traditions are completely new to me, and even though I’ve been here for 5 years now, I still don’t know them like the back of my hand. I think it’s still going to take some time and practice
In the Vora (that’s my maiden name) household, my mom used to make homemade Gujarati snacks (sweets and savories), and we used to attend a few Diwali dinner parties at friends’ homes. I always participated in the community’s annual program (which consisted of lots of practices and then an exciting night of performances by all of the kids). That was pretty much Diwali for me – we didn’t do many of the ritualistic activities which I’m seeing much more of here.
In the Kejriwal (that’s my married name) household, Diwali means major, major deep cleaning (basically the equivalent of Spring cleaning), menus, new clothes, pujas, sending out and receiving ‘meva’ (almonds, pistachios, cashews, etc.), visiting extended family – the works.
For us, the celebrations really begin on Dhanteras (which is 2 days before Diwali) – on this day, you usually make large purchases (lots of people buy cars or gold), and for symbolic purposes (and the actual pujas), we buy a silver coin every year. At night, the entire family takes part in a small prayer where we light 4 diyas.
Chhoti Diwali (the day before) is also known as Roop Chaudas. Back in the day, people used this day to prepare for the next – basically, they underwent natural beauty treatments to have that extra special glow for the most important event. My mother-in-law prepares a full body paste that acts like a mask – it consists of crushed almonds, gram flour, oil, yogurt, rose petals and some other stuff I’m sure I’m forgetting. You’re supposed to light a diya, spread the paste all over your body, hang out for a bit, let it do its thing and then shower. It really works – your skin feels amazingly soft and exfoliated afterwards – clearly, all these old remedies really work – I honestly think we should do as many of them as we can! I’ll spare you guys an image of myself with the paste on – ha!
The evening puja is a bit more involved – we light 11 diyas, place coins in a plate and actually perform the puja to them.
Finally, on Diwali, we have to 2 pujas – one in our place of work and then the main puja at night at home (both to pray for hopefully good things in the New Year and the general accomplishment of good over evil). For these pujas, we pray to God Ganeshji (the God with an elephant’s head who usually begins each prayer) and Goddess Laxmiji (the goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity). Everyone performs the rituals and showers the Gods with offerings, we light diyas which are then placed outside of each room of the house and sometimes fireworks!
The three days also consist of 6 different meals – a mix of traditional Rajasthani, Gujarati, South Indian and continental cuisines (this year it was Italian). And, as some of you may have seen over at my IG (@pinkbyruchi), we also get to dress up in new clothes (of course my favorite part of it all!). My mother-in-law wants everything about the occasion to be festive – the home is adorned with flowers, lights, candles, plants and more, we all wear new clothes, the dining table is decorated with new placemats and cutlery – it really does bring the entire place alive.
The morning after Diwali, it’s not downtime, but instead, we have to get up and be ready to welcome guests at home and also make our rounds around town to the elders in the extended family. Since everyone is busy with their own pujas the day before, visits are reserved for the days after. Like I said, even though I’ve been doing this for almost 5 years and Jai his whole life, we both completely forgot and had a lazy start that morning. And then of course, we were rushing! Standard!
I have learned so much about the spiritual part of Diwali after joining this family – there are many components, and I’m excited to carry on as many of the traditions as I can when it’s my turn. For now though, I’ll continue to make my lists and pick up as much as possible!
Happy Diwali (to all who celebrate) – may the lights of this season shine bright throughout your year and bring you nothing but joy, happiness, love and good fortune! As always, thanks for tuning in! And, thanks to Parita for letting me be a guest on MIS!
What’s your favorite holiday and why? Personally, I’ve always loved all the end of the year holidays, including Diwali, Navratri (another Hindu festival), Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Lots of family time and delicious food!