For starters, what is Diwali?
Lights, diyas, candles, decorations, bustling markets, traditional clothes, gifts and mithais. Diwali in India is absolute madness.
It is not only an important festival for Hindus but also very popular amongst Indians. Also called the ‘Festival of Lights’, Diwali extends over a period of 5 days. Celebrations include millions of lights illuminating the houses and other buildings in the community.
The history of Diwali dates back to time-immemorial. It celebrates the return of King Rama in the capital, Ayodhya with his wife Sita who had been kidnapped by a demon named Ravana.
Initially, the people of Ayodhya had lit small clay lamps to light up the city from where it all started. Nowadays, there are still some candles but also Christmas lights and spotlights that illuminate almost all houses. Moreover, one can compare Diwali to Christmas in Western countries.
Now that you know what is Diwali for Indians, I can tell you about my experience in Jaipur during this magnificent festival.
First, I must say that I had a chance to be with my parents, which is important, you will understand why later. We arrived in Jaipur on Saturday, the eve of Diwali. We took a rickshaw to get to our hotel. On the way, we observed: the name “pink city” to Jaipur has not been given for not given for nothing. When we crossed the old city, despite the dark, we saw that all the buildings were in pink effect (orange) and Diwali is the festival of lights, hence, many buildings were lit but that was only a glimpse announcing something big.
The next day, we donned traditional clothes: kurta for my father and me and salwar kameez-for my mother. Our city tour started with a visit to Hawa Mahal, known as the Palace of Winds. It is certainly a facade but you can stop for a while and contemplate this magnificent monument of Rajput art. The best is to go to the shops for an elevated view, that offer an opportunity to see the mountains surrounding the Fort Jaipur enthroned above the city. We then headed to the City Palace, residence of the Maharaja. Despite the small size of the museum, we could still feel the immensity of this complex, a mixture of Rajput, Mughal and European art. Clothes worn by the royal family, weapons used at the time of war, some of the jewelry worn by kings and queens had been on display in the museum. These items certainly made me realize the greatness of the empire. We then went to Jantar Mantar, an astronomical observatory, dating from the 18th century. Even for non-fans of astronomy and other sciences, this observatory is interesting because it is grandiose includes the Samrat Yantra Brihat, 27 meters high, which is the only equatorial sundial in the world. To finish off the day, we went to the Monkey Temple where we experienced the beautiful sunset over the city of Jaipur.
As the evening progressed, Indians seemed delighted and excited to celebrate the festival, they had already put on their best clothes. The city was overwhelming with decorations. However, the real show was yet to begin. After our busy day of sightseeing, we stayed in the old town. We just strolled in the streets but it was enough to realize the size of the party. Many streets were illuminated with different motifs: “Swastika” symbol of happiness in the Hindu religion; “Shatkona,” the 6-pointed star that represents the union of a man and a woman; white-green-orange of the Indian flag, and many others. So we walked a long time in this festive atmosphere. We met many families and had the opportunity to interact them. Children were amused to see Westerners during this holiday, many people asked us to take pictures with them. The atmosphere was very pleasant, quiet and everyone was looking forward to having a good time with their family. That’s why I was very glad of the presence of my parents, especially as I had not seen them for about five months.
The next day, rich with memories of the day, we were ready to visit other tourist destinations in Jaipur. We went to Amber Fort. This imposing monument can be seen from the road as it is slightly elevated. From the inside, it seems like is a maze. It is said that this is the largest fort in the world after Gwalior Fort. This fort has a public part including the public hearing hall and also a large private party hall.
First of all we arrived at the private audience room where there were magnificent columns and then went through a door with a Rajput art pediment, where the women of Maharaja threw flowers to their return. This door leads to the garden of the women then continued the discovery of many passages and halls. After this visit, we stopped on the road to observe Jal Mahal, the Water Palace. It is a palace of which we see only the top floor, the rest having fled underwater.
After these two very rewarding days in Jaipur, it was unfortunately time to leave this wonderful “pink city”. However, we left happy and aware of the opportunity we had to be able to attend this great festival of Diwali in this city so warm.
For starters, what is Diwali?