Show us a house that isn’t done up for Diwali and we’ll show you some barfi that helps you shed a few pounds... er, or something like that. The point is that, even if all you do all year is sit around watching the carpet gather dust and a spider weave its merry way across your ceiling, you would be hard pressed to find a corner in your house that doesn’t get some good old broomstick treatment once the festival of lights rolls around. More often than not, the house is cleaned from top to bottom; the walls get a fresh coat of paint; old bedspreads, cushion covers and pillow covers are shown the way out; and most rooms dazzle in the warmth of the many diyas.
Once upon a time, some folks, like fashion designer Madhu Jain found the whole thing a pain in the neck. “But I was a child then and I used to hate cleaning up!” she laughs. The Jains are one of Delhi’s oldest families. “We are the original Dilliwallas,” says Jain. “The old families never showed off their money, so for us, celebrating Diwali is always underplayed, subtle and classy. Therefore, we do up the house in a simple, traditional way and involve all members of the family in the process.”
The Jains celebrate two Diwalis – a chhoti Diwali (the day before Diwali) and a badi Diwali (the actual Diwali day).
“On chhoti Diwali, we light all the lamps and diyas and place them in every corner of the house, taking care to ensure that no corner is left in the dark,” says Jain. “We do use electric lights, but personally, I don’t think they add much to the air of celebration.”
Traditional diyas have a special significance in quite a few households. The diyas in Bharatnatyam dancer Geeta Chandran’s house, for instance, are made of what she calls ‘pancha-loham’ (five metals). “These lamps have been in my family for generations and it is considered very auspicious to light them on Diwali evening,” says Chandran. “We also light earthern diyas and lots of candles all around the house. Electric lights are a no-no.”
Since she comes from a hardcore Tam-Bram culture, says Chandran, everything – including lighting a diya – has a ritualistic meaning. “For me, a festival is not just about getting together with friends and celebrating. It is a chance to reflect and introspect about whether you’re keeping your conscience alive in a commercial and competitive world.”
Shobha Deepak Singh, a cultural icon and the director of Shriram Bhartiya Kala Kendra in Delhi, says that for her, Diwali equals shopping.
“I’m not a shopping person otherwise,” explains Singh “But I love shopping for Diwali. So every year, I look forward to going shopping for new clothes, mithais and saris. I also make sure that I buy new diyas every year.”
The house is done up with marigold and mango leaf decorations. “I am a very traditional person, so I prefer it this way,” says Singh, adding that for the past 45 years, she has also been making her own kaajal every Diwali. “For me, Diwali is about health, wealth and prosperity and I am thankful to God that I have a great deal to look upon.”
Diwali and its magic lamps
1) Diwali means light and festivity, so do up the living room in bright, cheery colours like red, orange, pink and yellow. This also enhances the space by making it look bigger.
2) Use a glossy, shiny fabric for your cushion covers and curtains. They will automatically reflect the glow of the diyas and candles you light and make the room look warm.
3) Corners that feel empty can be decorated with small rangolis and flowers
4) Experiment with diyas. Traditional ones look great, but try using a variety, such as hanging diyas and decorative candles
5) Make sure that the lighting is in shades of yellow. A white tube-light is stark, clinical and kills the festive ambience. Once again, experiment with bulbs, chandeliers and lampshades
6) Focus on lighting up separate sitting spaces for get-togethers rather than the entire room
— Courtesy interior
decorator Neha Mandlik