Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated throughout India but there is a difference in origin, myth and the way in which it is celebrated. The festival, which coincides with the Hindu new year, celebrates new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. The word ‘Diwali’ is most popularly used in North India and South India it is mostly used as ‘Deepavali.’ The meaning of both the word is the same. Diwali in North India commemorates the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya after his exile. On the Diwali day, Lakshmi puja is held in North India. In South India too Lakshmi puja is held on the same day.
As I live in Delhi, I was in the middle of this week long celebration. In the street I live, people started decorating their houses and apartments with brilliant and blinking lights weeks before. It was indeed a mesmerizing experience for me. The only big celebration we (keralites) celebrate that I can relate to Diwali is Vishu (Vaishaki) which marks the beginning of the harvest year.
On the day of Vishu, in morning, one person in the house will set the ‘kani’(the first thing seen on the day of Vishu after waking up). This is arranged the night before Vishu and is the first sight seen on Vishu. And the same person will wake up everyone in the house, blindfold them and help them to walk till the ‘pooja room’ and make them see ‘kani’. The way the people here in Delhi spend on the day of Diwali is entirely different from south India . On the streets children were always busy firing crackers. They start their morning by washing the doorstep and using kumkum to draw Swastikas .Then they wear new clothes, visit temple during the early hours in the morning. Then prepare some sweets and some other snacks. Then in the evening they exchange gifts and cards, light oil lamps, candles and put rangolis.
Rangoli is a tradition in which colored powders and rice are used to make different designs on the ground. I decided that I would go out to the heart of New Delhi to witness the celebration at night. So I took my camera and set out to India Gate. There I saw families celebrating by having a good time together away from their homes. The fire crackers and rockets were bursting everywhere around me. Sometimes I felt like I am in the middle of a war because of the loud bursting noise.
But you may now wonder why I put this title for my article. Obviously it doesn’t have anything to do with the “celebration ” part, but for the aftermath of Diwali. Yes, the pollution. The festival of joy brings happiness but the fumes and firecrackers brings you headache and chest congestion. India burns more than 600 crores for Diwali every year. A country which spends only 450 crores for interplanetary missions but spends more for firecrackers.