Ghar Wali Diwali Celebrations

I can hear some distinct sounds of bursting of crackers somewhere in the distance as I sit to write this entry. Diwali is still a few days away!

For the first time in 7 years I would be in Odisha for Diwali. But I somehow am sure that the experience this year would be very different from how I have known Diwali since childhood.

A picture from the 2011 Diwali celebration at my colony, from my sister's albums. I was a few hundred miles away in Delhi.
Sambalpur, Early 2000s:

Two major celebrations happened each October-November in our colony. The Durga Puja (for which we usually had a 10-day long break) and just a few days later, the two day break for Diwali and Kali Puja. Both Durga and Kali idols were made and the pandals set in clear visibility from our third-floor apartment.

Usually a day before Diwali, a celebration happened at the Officer’s Club in the colony. What we would all look forward to apart from having participation in the cultural program, was the huge line-up of fire crackers at the end of the function. The 10,000 ladis a.k.a. ‘mirchi bombs’ would be spread across the entire length of the park and our ears would be closed for the deafening sound we wanted it to produce. Not to forget the huge number of rockets, although we (the kids) were not allowed touching anything or even going near them. But it was fun and we looked forward to it every year.

Early mornings on Diwali day I would wake up and go out in the balcony and scatter all my crackers in the sun. The more sunlight and heat the crackers get, the better they will burn, I had been told. Usually this would also be the time when the ‘equal division of crackers’ would happen between me and my sister. By late-afternoon, we would both put together our crackers in separate bags and mom would take out the wooden box with the huge number of diyas (the earthen ones) which would be cleaned, washed and allowed to dry in the sun. Mom would then prepare the wicks and pour oil into the diyas before both I and my sister chose two places each (out of the 3 balconies and the verandah) for placing and burning the diyas.

Nightfall and the diyas would be lit. One after the other. Carefully. And then, we would get ready, grab our packet of crackers and run downstairs for the main celebration. Crackers time!

Diwali celebration in our colony for the kids was about crackers. For all the dads, it was about the out-of-office meetings (everyone worked in the same company after all), joining their kids in ‘safe’ burning of crackers and accompanying their wives to the social gathering. The best part was that of the moms - gathering with the choicest of homemade sweets and force-feeding all the kids with the utmost varieties. Of course while all this happened, the loudspeakers at the nearby puja pandal were on (although not clearly audible with the sound of the crackers) for the Kali Puja which happened at night. We would usually wake up the next morning, make our way through the piles of scattered and used crackers and paper boxes, and take a bow at the Kali Puja pandal.

That was how Diwali was for over a decade of my life.

(10 years ago I decided to go crackerless and launch a ‘save paper’ campaign. That’s a different story and for a later time!)

And then in 2008 I suddenly moved to Delhi.

At my new school, the 10-day long Dusshera holidays that I had known all these years had been reduced to a single day and the 2-day Diwali break was now over 10 days long. This was weird. I realized that Diwali was huger than Dusshera in North India.

For the first time, I was witnessing the celebration with my grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. But then I was introduced to an Odia ritual which I had never heard of before- bada badia daaka (Call to the ancestors). It is a ritual performed by the senior-most members of the family. An ancient tradition of giving a call to the seven generations of ancestors to bless the family and be part of the celebration.

What remained exactly the same were the crackers. The same ‘Murgachap’ crackers from Sivakasi were brought home from Chandni Chowk. It took just one Diwali to learn the Delhi-way-of-celebrations. I observed my cousins. No ‘sun-soaking of the crackers’ seemed important. No kid now ever bothers to light even a single diya, although the elders do get huge sets of decorative lights and arrays of flowers to be decorated inside and outside the home. I saw my neighbours hiring decorators to do the job. I started wondering what happened to the present generation of kids. Why are they simply interested in the ‘burning crackers’ part? Did no one ever tell them Diwali is much more than just crackers? Moreover, the homemade sweets had now been replaced by huge packs of Bikanos, Dairy Milks, Haldirams and other pre-packed sweets, snacks and chocolates. Is this a metro-city culture that I need to get used to?

It’s been six Diwalis since 2008 and I am used to the Delhi way of celebration now. This year it’s going to be different. I will be in Bhubaneswar with my maternal grandparents and there is a plan for visiting Puri and performing the Bada Badia Daaka in the Jagannath Temple on Diwali Day. This should be a new experience and probably an entry for the blog in the time to come.

For the 22 years of my life and in all the Diwalis that I can remember, one thing has remained the same- Being with family. And probably, that is why I haven’t exactly known the difference that a celebration away from home makes. A recent TVC by Pepsi and Kurkure makes an attempt at this importance of home and loved ones during celebrations. Watch it here:

This post has been written as part of the ‘Diwali- a timefor the family’ campaign by PepsiCo on Indiblogger.

Wishing you and your family a very happy Diwali!


  1. I wonder how you express things so perfectly, just the way they are. I miss home, I miss lighting the diyas- the best part of Diwali. I miss every celebration in Jagriti Vihar. It won't be the same again and that's sad.

    And honestly, Diwali here in Delhi seems more like a show off and competition for spending money than celebration. No offence intended.

    Loved the article. :)

  2. Another gripping post!Always keep writing...I look forward to it


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