This week has been one huge celebration! It is the Hindu holiday Diwali and true to Indian style, it is over the top! I would love to give you a really great explanation of what Diwali is and its meaning but I know I would never do it justice! There are many great Epics in the Hindu religion and the week of Diwali celebrates one of the biggest Epics. It has mainly to do with the the God Ram returning home after 14 years of being banished and welcoming the Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of wealth) into your home. Susie put it best when she described the atmosphere as the perfect melding of Christmas and 4th of July. People exchange gifts, dress in new clothing and decorate their houses with lights. Then all day night firecrackers are lit! It is CRAZY! I knew I was in for an adrenaline/anxiety packed week when I was walking home on Monday having lit firecrackers thrown near my feet.
No one cares! HUGE crackers and full on fireworks are lit in the streets, yards, balconies (*ahem*) and maybe even in front of the hospital with the plastic surgeons! Traffic just drives through as things are exploding, they are lit in people's hands and as I said, there is no regard to pedestrians walking by. I mean they go off all night and day. There are no rules or regulations, children and adults alike set of what feels and sounds like TNT and machine guns. I have never ever ever ever experienced anything like this!!
People decorate their homes with lights, colored powder and rice and light candles all the way to the door and throughout their homes to make Lakshmi feel welcome and to welcome home Ram. Shopkeepers also start their new financial year during Diwali. They bring their shop books to the temple to be blessed and decorate their shops like crazy!
On Tuesday night I was invited to a friends' house. I ran home from work, threw on some clothes and headed over for dinner, dancing and my first night of crackers. That night was very tame. We did sparklers, spinners, ones that shoot up sparks. Nothing too wild and about what you might be able to get your hands on in the parts of the U.S. where fireworks are legal.
Wednesday was the main day to celebrate. I spent most of the day at home relaxing, cleaning and treating the wound of this little street girl. That night I headed over to my coworkers house. She and her husband live in the biggest home I have seen here. They threw a traditional Diwali party for us. We ate a nice meal and ate lots of sweets. In their home they have a room with an alter in it. The family invited us to watch puja and it was very detailed. There were rice, sweets, fruits, flowers and oil for offerings. They blessed one another and then blessed each of us. It was so lovely, I felt honored to have been a part of their night. It was a night I will never forget.
I thought that puja would be the end of night for us, but I was mistaken! We then went out front and lit fireworks for two hours. I think I almost died of a heart attack the whole time. There was one set of crackers called the 10,000 walla aka a string of 10,000 crackers. They just laid it all down the street and lit her up. It was loud and went on forever. Meanwhile as the crackers were exploding, cars, motorcycles and people on bikes drove through like it was just another Wednesday night. I had a permanent cringe on my face, I can not believe that we all made it home in one piece. It is now Thursday night and there have still been crackers all day/night. I had to yell at some teenagers for throwing one right in front of me as I was walking home!! Total insanity!