I still remember, as young children in our village Pilimandori in Haryana in the 1960s, we used to look forward to Diwali because it brought the whole village together to rejoice. We planned the celebrations. It started with making attractive ‘containers’ out of watermelons to seek oil for lighting diyas in our houses and school. Each child holding a decorated watermelon with a diya lighted inside, we went from house to house, singing songs, and requesting for the offering. No one would refuse us as we pleaded lovingly. The elders would willingly pour some oil in our big make-shift tanker lamp. They would also give us sweets. There was no fear of adulterated sweets as everything was homemade (kheer, halwa, gulgula, etc). On Diwali night, the whole village was lit up, and there was mirth all around. Women made rangoli inside their houses, and painted peacocks and other beautiful birds on the floor. The whole village turned into one big happy family.
There were no crackers or any sort of pollution on this day. There was also no gambling or binging on drinks like what we see today. As there were few motor vehicles, the question of rash driving or drunken brawls did not arise. It was such a day full of love and brotherhood, where people reached out to one another, even making up with the estranged relatives. Saying sorry on this day was a normal thing. Outstation children came home to be with their parents. Seeking blessings of grandparents and making them join in the festivities reaffirmed our sanskars.
The day after Diwali used to be called Ram Rami, ie wishing one another Ram Ram with reverence and love. Some people also performed Goverdhan puja by making an offering of cow dung, ber, kheel, sugarcane, etc., in front of their house, apart from offering vegetarian food in front of the idol of lord Krishna and other deities.
Keeping in view the precautions against Covid-19, we will try to keep up the old traditions and maintain the essence of a happy and healthy Diwali this year, too. The aim is to make this auspicious festival a day of giving and forgiving, and not show of wealth or sycophancy or a nuisance for others. Why have we already started hearing the sound of crackers bursting? As if farm fires were not enough, why are we adding to pollution, and discomfort to animals and birds? The pandemic should have at least taught us to value life and be humble. Let it be a day of sharing joy and spreading brotherhood. At the end of the day, it should leave us happy, with a kinder heart, and strengthened relations.
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