I painted faces on the night of Halloween (which is a non-event here in India – except for our two floors of the house). But four of us enjoyed ourselves anyway, for a little while. Taking our photos and posting them on various facebook pages and getting immediate thumbs up responses.
And then it was all about preparations for the biggest Holy Days of the Indian year – Diwali – The Festival of Lights. It required much decoration of the house. Everyone does repairs, re-paints what they can, buys things because it’s considered an auspicious time.
So, not only did we tape lots of colored streamers around, but we made what they call Rangoli on each level of the house, also an auspicious thing to do. Here are the two we made (I worked with Karen’s boy-friend, Atul on the first one, and the other three made the second one upstairs.
The family downstairs and we above participated in a pooja with a priest who went from home to home doing the Puja all day long for the community. The ooja was about a 45 minute religious rite of significant complexity involving a pile of marigolds that he would select from and dip into the red paste and the holy water, or some other substance and then hand to us as he recited sanskrit mantras in a method not unlike an auctioneer’s fast drone. We sat on cushions before an altar lit up with both electric lights and candles. The priest directed Gaurav and Ravi (but mostly Gaurav) how to hold his hands, what to repeat, gave him water to toss in the six directions, rice to also toss or drink or dab on his forehead. There were many intricate hand gestures, and then annointing the two sacred bronze pieces with some sweet milk-concoction and holy water (one a statue of Ganesha, the Elephant God, and the other some sacred writing on a little metal stand). And then washing them again.
This is how things are blessed. The family downstairs did their own puja for their car, and the boys asked for a blessing for their organization, that it would grow in more volunteers.
Fireworks have been going off all over the area for days, but yesterday and all night long they were bursting with pops, bursts of color and sometimes startling ear-shattering bangs.
Today I played in cow-dung! Yep, there’s a first for everything (well, at least with me there’s always lots of them!) It is an ancient tradition for the women of the household to fashion a symbolic home with a mother and child in it and animals, etc. out of cow-dung. It is a govardhan pooja, which is another process of blessing the house and the family. So Pinky, the delightful mother living downstairs was about half-way through constructing it with her daughter this afternoon when I returned from a walk. Karen and I watched and finally pitched in too at the very end. What the hell…when in Rome! Remember making mud-pies? Well, basically its the same thing only, well, not quite…
Then, this evening numerous family members and neighbors all gathered for the actual pooja part of it. Again, there was dabbing of tumeric, sprinkling of water and rice, putting bits of sweets into the mouths of the figures and asking for blessings. The two elder-men started it off, then all the women went, then the men formed a circle around it while singing a chant.
There was lots of laughter and some good humored teasing. It was very up-beat and warm hearted and they had lit some little lamps in it too, so in the dark there was a soft glow to it all. And then…oh goodie….MORE FIREWORKS! I am not a big fan of fireworks close to home, the pops are alright but the big bangs I can do without.
This was the last night of the major Diwali poojas and celebration. It all began to quiet back down to normal. And so, I shall, say good night for now.