I posted some of our experiences for Deepavali (Diwali) this year (2010) in this post. There was more to this special festival for us. I show some of it in this posting.
For many South Indians (I suspect mainly the men and boys), a big part of the holiday is ‘crackers’ (what we call ‘firecrackers’ in the USA). I like fireworks, but not crackers so much. The last two years I have bought A LOT of fireworks (mainly rockets that explode into ‘stars’ high overhead). Last year, we set them off in the street a few feet in front of Rajan’s house (post of this here). This year, I wanted to do this at my house, so the people watching would have a better view than last year, from ground level near where they were set off. Instead we would be on the roof, three stories up for better viewing.
I also invited Rajan and his family and the other rickshaw drivers. I was going to serve chicken, beer, and other drinks.
We had quite a few fireworks. He is a photo of them on the table. There are also many for the children to set off. They like this the best.
We had a house full of people. Rajan’s wife and her friends and relatives set up in the kitchen and made pots and pots of ‘Chicken 65’, a local spiced fried chicken pieces favorite. This tasted as good as you can find it at any restaurant in town.
We have about 15 Indian men, some with their families, and a few westerners.
The women are cooking, Rajan and another Indian man are getting drinks, I am watching the women cook.
Naturally, the boys are by the fireworks.
We had a great fireworks show. It was over too soon. No photos of this, though.
Gifting Dhotis to Sadhus
Carol gave blankets to some of the abandoned elders, cared for by Quality of Life Trust (shown here). I wanted to give something, too. So a bought a few orange-colored dhotis and towels, and gave them to selected Swamis on Girivalam Road. ‘
Here are a few photos from this:
This is Swami Annamalai. I have known him for almost three years. When we pass on the road, we say, “Om Namah Sivaya” to each other. Occasionally I stop and he gives me a blessing, and puts vibhuti on top of my head, a stripe across my forehead, and throws some into my open mouth. He wears 1080 (108 times ten) Rudraksha beads around his neck, so dedicated to Siva is he.
He blesses Carol.
The two below are Sadhus that exchange greetings with me as I frequently pass on my motor scooter.
This Sadhu is usually by the first Ganesh Shrine on Girivalam Road.
I feel it is important to give at this holiday. We have been given so much. It is appropriate to find ways to give back.
The midday meal on Deepavali is a big occasion for dining with family. We were invited to Rajan’s house. He treats us like family and makes sure that we are included in on traditional family festival meals. Today is a vegitarian day. Yesterday, on the eve of Deepavali, was a meat-eating day for the locals. This is also the usual day to set off fireworks (which we did), and to gift one another.
Naturally an elaborate kolam is drawn on the street in front of Rajan’s house. His wife, Janakee, drew it this morning, after sweeping and washing the area.
Rajan’s daughter, Jananee, ten years old. She got TWO fancy outfits this year for Deepavali. She wears one now.
Rajan’s son, Raam Kumar, nine years old, also in new clothes. I wear new clothes, too.
One of Rajan’s ‘Aunties.’ She is one of his father’s sisters. The difference between ‘Father’s Sisters’ – Aunties, and ‘Mother’s Sisters” – Aunties is important in Tamil culture. Each family is much closer to the father’s side. The new wife will live with or near the father. If there is some kind of problem, the father (and his family) should be the ones to solve it.
This particular festival meal, it turns out, is served to the family and guests by the older generation, in this case, the two Aunties that were here. Usually it is the wife that serves. Today the wife is among the served. This is very different for her.
I am sitting to eat, in front of a banana leaf plate.
After the meal, Rajan gave me a string of crackers to set off.
These were bigger and louder than any I had set of before. When I lit them, Rajan had me get about 15 feet away. When the first cracker on the string explodes, it blows the others up to about ten feet, making a broad circle of explosions.
So we see that in Tiruvannamalai ‘The Festival of Lights’ is really a time of giving, of sharing with family and friends, of getting together for joyful times. this reminds me of what Christmas is supposed to be in the USA; a good time for all, gifting each other and eating festival foods with your family and friends.