Monday, October 31, 2011

{ Happy DIWALI! }

Diwali is a large 5 day festival here in India (but it's celebrated for about 2 weeks - like the American holiday season!).
The Festival of Lights.
The triumph of good over evil. 
It is the holiday of Goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth.
It's huge! 
It's basically like an Indian/Hindu Christmas.
Everyone gives each other gifts, people put up lights everywhere (they string them vertically all over the homes), etc. 
There was a huge boutique/craft fair with numerous vendors at the Blind Association on Lodhi Road. The organization we work with, Maitri, had a booth and we spent a good amount of time shopping around. It was fun because they were a bunch of handmade goods! I wish I had more time to shop. 

For Hindus, Diwali is celebrated with traditional family activities. For Jains, Diwali marks the attainment of moksha, or salvation, by Mahavira in 527 BC. 

On the actual day of Diwali, the Indians wear new clothes and share sweets with all of their friends and family. 

The oddest thing about Diwali, however, was the firecrackers.
They. never. stopped.
It is said they are set off to drive away evil spirits. 
Firecrackers all day, all night.
They are so loud! It felt like there was a bomb going off.
Basically, it has felt like we've been living in a war zone for the last week and a half. 
But, we're alive :)

For the last 2 weeks, we have entered and exited shops saying "Happy Diwali!" It was fun to be here in India during such a hoppin' time! 

Diwali was fun, the celebration was splendid, but we're glad it's over :) 
Enjoy some fun photos from our celebrations! 

At the office, we were given sarees and balls of sugar for Diwali presents :) 

Photos from Diwali Mela (craft fair)

Maitri's booth - these are used as "door hangers" to adorn the door - kind of like we use a wreath!

Maitri booth with our dear Anita :)

Mintoo baiyah! He's so cute!

Enjoying a husked coconut with juice at the Mela!

The malls is adorned in pretty lights :)

Our local Sector-12 market.

They sell little statues and such (like clay cups for candles, etc.) all over the streets during Diwali. 
Lots of little trinkets.
Laxmi came over and brought us samosas and ice cream to celebrate Diwali :)

These are some fun photos from our Som Vihar Apartment Community Diwali Celebration! We invited our friend, Ankur, from the office and partied hard! 

Playing in the bounce house! 

Lots of catered food - it was a party! 

Ankur bought me an icee/snow cone! It was SO yummy!!!

Dancin' on the dance floor! 

We enjoyed some local dancing!

Groovin' with our sno-ice :)

Sarah won Rs. 500 as Best Female Dancer!! Yes, she's amazing :)

Celebrating the day of Diwali - Wednesday, October 26 - from Udaipur!

Dressed up in the streets for Diwali :)

For Diwali, the people paint outside of their doorstep to invite the Goddess Laxmi into their home, the goddess of wealth, for a prosperous new year!

At the temple in Udaipur with lots of flowers, lights, and streamers to celebrate Diwali! 

Lights and glamour for Diwali! 
Watching firecrackers go off from a rooftop restaurant in Udaipur.

FIREWORKS. That was the best part of Diwali :)
Happy Diwali from Udaipur! Lights on the river. 

Beautiful city on the Lake Picchola!

{ Sunrise on the Ganges: Varanasi }

Sunrise on the Ganges. 
I love the vibrant colors - this city is full of life! 
Morning baths on the Ganges river. 

I'm a little late but, our trip to Varanasi was a success! 
Varanasi is a colorful little city to the southeast of Delhi (about 12 hours by train). 
It is also another holy city. 
The culture is so rich in Varanasi.
Everyone should travel here at least once in their lifetime. 

The pictures are better anyway, so I won't write too much this time around. 

We left to Varanasi by train at 6:45 Friday evening and didn't arrive until Saturday morning at about 8:00 am. Of course we had to keep ourselves entertained on the 12-hour train ride!

3 rommates cramming into an auto with our luggage - it was packed!

We love buying cheap food off the train!

Sarah being igor for was terribly entertaining!

Dinner on the train.

I love an Indian sunrise :)
These guys drove us around for 2 days!
This guy on the left told me I should be Ms. World, or rather, Ms. Universe.
He said to Katie, "You can't, I don't want my wife working!" haha whaaa??

Yep, this is India.

Ate a flavorbirst from McD's for my sissy :)

We visited one of the larger universities in India - it was nice!
Visiting another Hindu temple...

The art museum at Banaras University...

An Indian artist drawing a photo of God Ganesha...(the elephant god).

I loved watching the artists at work! 

This was from our visit to Monkey temple...I won't mention that Katie almost lost her camera under the wrath of a woman's thick batting stick...and Sarah claimed she was only taking photos of Monkeys...

We spent a lot of time in this SILK factory...
We took a tour of the silk factory within the alleyways of Varanasi...yes, it was "safe." 
Creating the designs in the silk...

CUTE kids in the alleyway slums! :)

He moves this machine back and forth all day to make silk...

Silk workers...

Swimming in a sea of silk!!!

The beginning of my beautiful chaco tan lines - I don't know why I'm so proud! 

Night baths in the Ganges. 
If you read about my trip to Rishikesh, you know all about the Ganges. The Ganges is a Goddess in the Hindu religion. As the people bathe in it (some all day, every day or every morning and night), they are washing away their bad karma (i.e. their sins...). There were so many people bathing in this water (which is much dirtier this far south than it was up in Rishikesh and Haridwar!). 

We took a boat out on the Ganges to watch the evening Aarti ceremony and to see the crematorium on the far end of the city. The crematorium was was a "spiritual" experience for me but in a much different sense. It was interesting knowing that although we believe much differently, these people have in common the belief that we are going somewhere after this life. We watched some Hindu Indian families carry the dead body of their loved one down to the bank of the Ganges. Each man of the family (sons and husband) placed water in the mouth of the deceased - as a final good departing note - and then the women joined in. They then carried the body back up by the fire, let it dry out for about 20 minutes, and then they place on the body on the fire to be cremated, a process of about 3 hours. We watched in humble silence. It was touching.

The aarti ceremony is HUGE in Varanasi. A long celebration of song and dance with light. So interesting! Watch it here on youtube.

See the glowing little pyramids? Those were for the Aarti ceremony. 

We ate dinner at a well-known Pizza Vaatika Cafe :)

I was in shock and awe because of the yummy apple pie with ice cream! Tasted like home (almost). 
The next morning, we woke up nice and early (4:30 am) for a boat ride on the Ganges to watch the Sunrise. This was my favorite part!! The water is very busy this early as people get up for their morning baths and tourists make their way out onto the water...
Some beautiful Indian women singing on the Ghats of the Ganges early morning. 

Bathing before sunrise...

We floated some more flower candlelit floats down the Ganges for a morning prayer and well wishes..

The beginning of the most incredible sunrise of my life!

True yogi warmed by the sun on the Ganges...

Sarah the mighty warrior!

This is the crematorium situated at the opposite end of Varanasi.

Little boys swimming around in the Ganges.

Lots of men bathing in the Ganges! We saw very few women. 

This was my favorite ghat along the Ganges in Varanasi.

Our room at the SubLaxmi Guesthouse. 

The Old City in Varanasi. 

We ate lunch in the Old City at a place called the Brown Bread Bakery (totally recommend it! The money goes to the Learn for Life charity, you can visit it too!) We were then talked into visiting an in-home aromatherapy shop of our waiter's brother.....hahaha.

We were led through numerous alleyways until we came upon a little barn and a back room full of aromatic oils...interesting, right? We thought so too. 

The barn.

Aromatherapy - he knew what he was talking about though! 
Random fact: 

I bought an incredible oil, that smells like a perfume, made of a Himalayan flower called Noor. 
He asked me..."Do you have a boyfriend??" When I said yes, he says, "Are you sure???" About 30 times! 
Goldie Hawn visited his aromatherapy shop back in like 1996...hahaha when his uncle ran the shop! 
Little puppies in the street! We saw a cow step on one and it wouldn't stop was so sad! 

Katie had this vintage silk dress made! 

Sunrise in Varanasi...

A little sold us some interesting Indian magazines on the train...he was too cute to refuse! 
It was a short two-day trip down the river but we enjoyed every moment! 
I loved Varanasi but, it was a dirty city. And one time was definitely enough.
Now take me back to another weekend in KASAULI!!!