The thundering monsoon’s incessant rains give way to shorter days and longer nights of Kartik, the golden season of October and November, The time when the Merigolds and Chrysanthemums erupt, it is the time of ‘The festival of Lights – Divali’, time for new clothes, crackers and loads of sweets.
My earliest memories of Diwali are that of our big bathroom, being cleaned with a vengeance by Girija our maid, the 2 large copper ‘Handas’, being washed till they gleamed and shone. My job was to decorate the doors of the bathroom and to make the Garlands of Merigold. These garlands and Karita creeper were then tied around the handa in the bathroom. The pulley (of the well) will be oiled and decorated with flowers. These Merigold will be home grown! It was again something planned weeks ahead, care will be taken to make sure the best flowers were available for Diwali.
‘Filling Water’ or ‘Neeru tumbisuva Habba’ is done on the evening of Trayodashi. We filled the Copper Pots after offering Pooja to ‘Ganga’- in this case the well. Then fire will be lit in the night, to heat the water, so that hot water was ready early in the morning – for the ‘oil-bath’.
In our part of the country, the bath took place at the very wink of dawn, we friends – neighbouring kids, competed with each other to be the first to have the bath. The first one to burst crackers, is assumed to be the first one to have had a oil bath!! Of course you never knew if some one cheated by first bursting a cracker…and then proceeded to go for the oil massage and bath!! Silly little games, but the excitement was palpable. Before 7 AM we were at the temple wearing the brand new clothes and preening like a little princes and princesses…
Among friends we also had a competition as to who made the most beautiful ‘Goodu Deepa’ or ‘Kandil’ a hanging paper lantern.
This was a project which will start a couple of days before Diwali.
In the evening, we lit clay lamps lined up along verandas, on windowsills, near the well, in front of the Tulsi, in the cows shed, and in the garden. My mother and I used to light the lamps together, sharing poignant moments of togetherness. Diwali holidays were gloriously festive. Then in the evenings the family got together to set off crackers, sparklers and rockets and pots.
Streets strung with bright lights and paper lanterns, decorated shops calling passers by to take the ‘Prasad’ or offerings and sweets of the ‘Angadi Pooja’, the customary ‘Lakshmi Puja’ to begin the new financial year.
Another highlight was the ‘Go Puja’ or worship of cattle on Balipadyami. We invariably had cattle at home, the cows and calves will be given a bath in the morning and the cow shed will be cleaned and decorated with marigold flower garlands. Then we apply oil on their head and feed them beaten (flattened) rice, bananas, jaggery and coconut mixture!
These are small pleasures which are not easy to explain, they should be experienced