Saturday, December 5, 2009

Happy Diwali!

Diwali; the festival of lights, is one of India’s biggest, brightest and loudest Indian festivals… basically, it’s an excuse for Indian’s to let off fire crackers and fireworks all day and all night for what is supposedly a 5 day festival, but seems to vary in date/length from place to place.

For us, Diwali kicked off in Delhi when we were greeted at our hotel by a tiny, energetic, carny-like waiter, who screamed HAPPY DIWALI while shaking our hands every time he came to our table. During out stay in Delhi, we became “best friends” with this little freak and he told us of his 2 pregnant wives back in Nepal and about the time he cut his own tiny thumb off with a knife in a fit of passionate rage. We started avoiding the restaurant.

We got into the festivities with a bit of sightseeing and, for the first time in 6 months, a LOT of shopping! Delhi is another one of those cities that people warned us of constant hassle, filth and cons abound, but, as usual, we found none of this here (compared to other places) and really enjoyed our time in the capital.

The lovely outfits we were given at the Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi.

We decided to head north to Amritsar for the main celebration day. We started our day with a trip to the stunning Golden Temple and made plans to return for the fireworks show that night. Given the festival, the temple grounds were packed with Sikh worshippers, adding to the charged atmosphere of Diwali.

The Golden Temple, Amritsar.

Coolest (and biggest) turban ever!

By day, the presence of the few foreigners around, was curiously noted by the locals, but at night we seemed to have been raised to some kind of celebrity status and were bombarded with requests for photos and a chat. “One snap please” is the way to ask for photos in these parts, but when 1 photo turned to 20, 20 to 50 and 50 to 100, the novelty of fame wore off and we’d try to escape from the crowd surrounding us… only to be surrounded by a whole new group of people wanting photos. In the end, it all got a little too much for us, and we took refuge in a cafe where the owners had to forcibly restrain people from coming in and photographing us… it was crazy! Worst thing is, they weren't even drunk! All the festivities were celebrated without a drop of booze… so different to home.

Happy Diwali!

Can you find us??

The following day we finished off our Diwali celebrations with a trip to Attari to watch the Indian-Pakistan border closing ceremony. What a hilarious spectacle! Stadium style seating on either side of the border is filled with cheering spectators watching the amusing show of bravado between the Indian and Pakistani soldiers… we’d never seen a mans leg be kicked up high in the air, nor had we heard a man hold a reasonably high-pitched note for such a long time… funny thing is that this squealing, kicking display is how each country asserts its dominance over the other. In all seriousness though, it was nice to see that despite current political tensions between the countries, this light hearted daily event still takes place for the entertainment of their people… shame Australia doesn’t share a land border with another country.

The Indian soldiers had lovely hats.

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