Manipal: The Festival of Lights

The weekend trip to Goa and Gokarna was absolutely amazing but as they are mainly tourist destinations, there were not really any Diwali celebrations. For anyone unfamiliar with Diwali in India, it is socially acceptable time to develop pyrotechnic tendancies. Groups of students spent thousands of rupees on fireworks and then gather around and set them off in an unregulated and pretty dangerous manner.

Since we were back on the actual day of Diwali – that Tuesday morning (though it is officially celebrated on that Monday in the South and Tuesday in the North), we were able to see the University fireworks show (there wasn’t any sort of advertisement about it, all the students just “knew” the show would be going on). After the show I went to the Venugopal Temple, a Hindu temple right here on campus with another student, to pay our respects on Diwali. Diwali is not just celebrated by the Indian Hindu community, but also holds importance in the Sikh and Jain communities as well.

The temple was lit up and decorated for Diwali

The lights at the Venugopal Temple were were festive as many students at the University came to pay their respects on Diwali

In Sikhism, Diwali is the time when the sixth Guru, Guru Har Govind ji came back from the captivity of the fort of Gwalior city. In Jainism, Diwali is the day when the famous Jain prophet, Bhagvaan Mahaveer, founder of Jainism, attained ‘Nirvana’. In Hinduism, the festival commemorates Lord Rama’s returned to Ayodhya after completing his 14-year exile  and defeating the Demon king, Ravana, in a ferocious battle. The story goes that oil lamps were lit throughout India, because his people were so delighted and wanted to illuminate his way home. Diwali is celebrated one day earlier in the South than in the North of India because Lord Rama traveled from South to North India on his return from exile. Tuesday also celebrates Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth.

Night map of India during Diwali!

At the temple we offered respect and “puja” as well as paid respect to Kali, who holds particular importance during Diwali to Bengali Hindus.

Puja (offering) was offered to Kali on this Tuesday in Diwali by the Bengali Hindus

After we went to the temple we went to the KMC greens and proceeded to set off all manner of firecrackers, sparklers, fireworks, and little noise maker/”bombs”. It was entirely dangerous and students were firing them on the greens, on the sidewalk, under the overhang (making very loud noises). Thankfully I came out unscathed and I felt invigorated! One of my friends did take a rocket to the face, which just barely missed her eye – thank goodness! Safety during Diwali is a major concern in India, with many people, often time children bystandards loosing their eyesight or individuals obtaining burns of varying degrees due to the firecrackers. This year was bad, but managed to be a slight improvement in the number of cases of injury, though there is concern that the injuries this year are more serious.

KMC greens were not only lit up by lights, fireworks also helped aid the process!

Firecrackers went off the entire weekend and into much of the next week. Away from the hype and the fun, it is easy to criticize how dangerous the fireworks are…but when I was here, I chose to set aside my scared-y cat nature and just go for it!

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