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bloodypeasant Oct 28th, 2006 20:36

Diwali in Jaisalmer
Twenty First October 2006 is the first day of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Light bringing in the New Year. Jaisalmer - an Indian City in the Western deserts of Rajasthan provides our backdrop.

The city is dominated by a mighty fortress, a living
museum and home to over 5,000 Indians and some tourists who reside in hotels in the highest bastions overlooking first the city spread around the fort and then the vast desert with intermittent wind turbines dissecting the horizon. The city is
ruled by a Maharajah who lives in a downtown palace
but the true king here is the Sun, on a constant and unrepentant vigil of everything below. By day all pay tribute to the Sun King, the dark skins of the desert people, the bright bright oranges, pinks, purples, yellows and blues of the Rajasthani Sari, the honey hues of the rocks and fortress walls, the slow loping of the camels carrying water to outlying villages. By night the Sun surrenders to a myriad of stars, to the moon and the warm yet cooling winds from the desert and to the flocks of bats flitting above the fortress defending the ancient walls from the nightly invasion of insects.

The morning of Diwali sees the people of the fort parading through the narrow stone streets in their new finery. Pretty
young women in bright sparkly saris and shiny shoes eye each other up self-consciously. Young children look awkward in brand new suits and western clothes. Young men,hair neatly combed and oiled, dressed in their most modern clothes parade the alleys and pass the newly cleaned shops and houses.

From dawn until way in to the early hours of the next morning the fort, cityand sky are constantly assaulted by the blasts and lights of fireworks. A minute will not pass without the booming of a cracker , the sound twice and thrice amplified by the walls of the houses and fort. Young children sometimes only 3 or 4 seemingly oblivious to the danger yet street wise and full of sense, light and throw penny crackers, their older brothers and sisters of 10 and 11 putting fire to the multiple crackers, mortars and mines. Squeals of delight and tuts of dissapporoval from onlooking adults accompany the larger bangs some shaking the foundations of the fort. The many cows who wander the streets of the fort sometimes with calves, munch on - oblivious. By night the cracker crescendo reaches its peak and to shut your eyes can only bring one image to mind - that of a beseiged city under assault from a huge army with gunfire and cannon all around. When the assault slackens the steets and alleys are covered in cracker debris making it impossible to walk without standing on brightly coloured yet ripped, burnt paper and cardboard tubes that once seduced the children from the stalls arranged in the markets below. This night the bats feed far from home and the mosquitos are met by a new foe - the smells of gunpowder and cordite. Not even the mesmerising coloured lights adorning each and every house can entice them through this fog.

The day is interspersed with prayers and appeasements to one or many of the pantheon oif Hindu gods. Respect is directed at
elders with clasped hands and a touch to the leg and families are rejoined for feasting on spicy dishes, saffron drinks and sugary sweets. The day is celebrated without need for alcohol or drugs and the participants smile and laugh and attend to
their family duties.
Thus passes the first day of Diwali, the day seeming to end with mighty boom at 3 am that shakes and shudders the fort. With that,the guilty boys scampered off to bed leaving the
bats to once again reclaim their nightly domain.

aadil Oct 28th, 2006 21:09

Good post. Now wouldn't you like to make this entry in the Journals Section?


Nick-H Oct 28th, 2006 21:43

Brilliant, Bloodypeasant.

Thanks for that wonderful, evocative portrait :D

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