Diwali is one of the most beloved festivals in India.

The neighbors just fired a cannon.  Or, at least, that’s what it sounds like.  I nearly jumped out of my chair. Boom! there goes another one.

It is Diwali, or more traditionally, “Deepavali”. “While [it] is popularly known as the ‘festival of lights’, a more appropriate significance is ‘the new year of luck and wealth’.” “The festival marks the victory of good over evil, and uplifting of spiritual darkness.” [Wikipedia]  It marks the end of the harvest season, and for many businesses, the start of a new fiscal year. Read on!

Diwali is one of the most important and beloved festivals in India.  For this ‘festival of lights’, the past three nights have been full of constant fireworks.

Many in India celebrate by “busting crackers,” that is, setting off fireworks.  Judging by the noise, most of the 6 million people in Bangalore have a large box of crackers!  From about 6pm until well after midnight the noise is continuous… it sounds a bit like thunder, non-stop, near and far, with a crackling quality to the sound. I’ve never heard anything like it. The neighborhood kids run around with sparklers, and set off ground fireworks that shoot up a tower of sparks; families gather on the rooftops and set off roman candles and all manner of spinning, squealing, booming crackers. Our kids ran from place to place to watch, or went to their friends’ house to share the sparklers. Monday was John’s 12th birthday, and he was having an incredible blast with his friends and loads of fireworks. 

Monday night was loud, but tonight (Tuesday) is the main day and is truly deafening.  It’s hard to believe, then, when my colleagues in the department and the shopkeeper downtown tell me that it is so much quieter this year than in the past. There seem to be three reasons: the cost of ‘crackers’ has been increasing, there is more awareness of the environmental cost (the newspaper says Bangalore sensors report 100-120% increase in air pollutants over ‘normal’ levels), and there is more awareness of the terrible conditions experienced by the children who work in the illegal fireworks factories in cities throughout India, hand-rolling firecrackers.

the morning after.

We didn’t buy any crackers, and fortunately neither did our closest neighbors. Instead, we lit a row of diyas, tiny clay pots containing wax and a wick, along the steps leading to our house.  Our next-door neighbor outdid us, with beautiful display of diyas all along her porch and indeed around the wall along her rooftop.  (“Deepawali” (also transliterated as “deepaawaLi”) literally means a row of lamps (Sanskrit “deepa” = lamp and “aawaLi” = row, line). [Wikipedia])

Andy lights a sparkler on some diyas.

I don’t have many pictures, sadly, because all the action is at night. (Well, most of it; I hear sporadic fireworks throughout the day.) You can hear a bit of the background sound in this 30s movie; it begins with a shot of the diyas on our doorstep, and you see a ground sparkler, but it’s mostly useful for the background sounds of crackers going off everywhere.

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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