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Spirit of light

Down the ages, communities have come together to celebrate the festival of lights, writes Sadia Dehlvi.

art and culture Updated: Oct 25, 2008 21:20 IST
Sadianama | Sadia Dehlvi
Sadianama | Sadia Dehlvi
Hindustan Times

Diwali is a great time of the year when you can begin to feel the nip in the early morning breeze and enjoy the cool evenings. The Hindu calendar has forever fascinated me with its accuracy in affecting the weather of Delhi. Since childhood one has heard that winter begins with Diwali and the summer with Holi.

The Festival of Lights has traditionally symbolised communal harmony for the denizens of Dilli with people of different faiths coming together for the celebrations. Some of the Mughal Emperors and British officers seemed to enjoy the festive spirit. Even today some churches in Delhi are lit up beautifully on Diwali. Lamps are lit to invoke the spirit of Jesus, the Light of God.

The owners of Swatantra Mills held the most popular Diwali fair from the early twentieth century till the late sixties in Moti Nagar. Another large public fair used to be held in the Parade Ground opposite Red Fort that also stopped at around the same time.

As people moved into newer parts of the city,

Diwali Melas began to be held in the colony parks. The oldest among them is the Sunder Nagar Colony Mela that began in the early sixties.

I recall going there in the early seventies during my college years. It served as a great rendezvous for young boys and girls in the city who wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world. Glances and phone numbers would be exchanged and my mother would not allow me to go unless escorted by my elder brother. I often managed to give him the slip and join my friends and got scolded all the way back home. It is saddening to hear that this year they are not holding the Mela because of security reasons.

The main market for firecrackers is the near Jama Masjid, the traders called “aatishfarosh”. Some of these shops have been there for over a hundred years. In recent years, Chinese Crackers have been flooding the market and most of these traders have now begun to directly import the crackers from China.

With children becoming environment conscious, it’s a good sign to see less firecrackers each year. Personally, I can’t take the sound of loud bombs and rockets, but love to see anars and phuljhadi’s light up.

I don’t know how to play cards and avoid card parties that often begin late and run into the early hours of the morning. Arman and me spend Diwali evenings visiting some old friends. When Arman was younger, my neighbours would invite him to imprint Goddess Lakshmi’s footprint with his little feet right up the stairs to the pooja room. This Diwali I shall light some candles on my balcony with a prayer that Delhi be blessed with harmony peace and good cheer. Diwali Mubarak.