Yesterday was Diwali, perhaps the biggest Hindu festival of the year, and certainly the most fire-cracker intensive. It sounded like a war zone in my neighborhood last night, and the air was thick was the smoke of burst crackers. The smoke crept through my balcony and entered my bedroom as well; viewed from the other side of the room, my curtains started to look distinctly hazy. And the fire-cracker bombardment continued. Continue reading
Dussehra was two week ago, but my ears are still ringing. Dussehra is – yes – one more religious festival (I told you this was the season). Perhaps even more than other popular Indian festivals, it is marked by extreme noisemaking. Dussehra celebrates the victory over the God-man Ram (hero of the Sanskrit epic the Ramayana) over the evil demon/intellectual Ravan. In festivals all over India, huge effigies of Ravan are burned. I had a front-row seat at one of these Ravan burnings, and no one had told me that, these days, the effigies are filled with dangerous amounts of firecrackers. Thus, the ringing ears. Continue reading
Okay, folks, we’re back in business! The Commonwealth Games are over, the weather’s getting cooler, and the street vendors are returning to the city in droves. This means that the outdoor Monday markets or haats – which take advantage of the shuttered storefronts – are back in full swing, including the mother of all Monday markets: Karol Bagh. Continue reading
The Commonwealth Games are upon us. It should be a festive occasion, but instead Delhi seems oddly quiet. I live near one of the Games stadiums, and I’ve seen far more stern, gun-wielding policemen than enthusiastic athletes or fans. Street vendors and beggars have been kicked out of the city. Even stray dogs are being rounded up and carted away (to where and to what fate, I dare not ask). Delhi is trying its best to present a sanitized image of itself to the world, and, in the process, it’s losing its raucous charm. Continue reading
I’ve already documented the difficulty of finding Monday events in Delhi. The day is marked by shuttered storefronts and closed museums. Still, I knew that street vendors took advantage of this lull, and – with a little sleuthing – I found out that one of Delhi’s biggest Monday markets takes place in Karol Bagh, not far from my flat. And to Karol Bagh I dutifully went today, camera in hand, only to find… nothing! The police had put the kibosh on the market, as part of the preparation for the upcoming Commonwealth games. (There was some last-minute construction going on, as the above photo shows.) Street vendors, apparently, don’t fit into the polished image of India the government is trying (unsuccessfully) to present for the games.
So back to the drawing board for Day 2 of our Week in Delhi.
September 2nd marked the festival of Krishna Janmashtami, a.k.a. Krishna Jayanti, a.k.a. Krishna’s birthday. For those of you not keeping track of the Hindu pantheon (it can be an exhausting pursuit), a brief primer: Krisha is widely worshiped as the eighth avatar, or incarnation, of Vishnu, while Vishnu himself is commonly portrayed as part of the trimurty (or trinity) of great Hindu gods, along with Shiva and Brahma. (I use these hedging adverbs – “widely,” “commonly,” etc. – because of the bewildering complexity and malleability of Hindu tradition.) Continue reading
– A article I wrote about the 2008 festival has finally found its way to online publication
– Some stunning pictures of the aftereffects of the festival are online here
Ganapati Bappa Moriya!