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In early October, our whole family made a small road trip into the mountains in Himachal Pradesh. The day after Maneesh and I returned from our honeymoon, we set out on another small trip. our family owns a condo in the small mountain town of Solan, not far from the famous hill station Shimla. We spent a few days driving in the mountains (which were much smaller than what we had previously experienced). This started off the month of October for us, which was jam packed with tons of more activities to come.
Although I have been in India on a couple accessions previously on Diwali, this year I got to experience it as a local. The month of October started with many cultural and religious festivals.
In late September a nine day festival started which is widely observed in India dedicated to the goddess Durga. There are many events happening around town in honour of this event. Some people even fast during these days and there are many prayer services in the temples.
This event is followed by Dushehra, which marks the death (and is celebrated in India) of Ravan, the evil man who had tried killing the god Ram. Typically a huge effigy is created out of paper mache and burned to the ground. There is usually a fair in some big park in town where this is going on.
A few days later the Karva Chauth fast happens, where many Indian women (not all) fast for a day for the well being of their husbands and family. Two days later another fast happens (again not observed by all Indian ladies) where mothers fast for the well being of their children. Both of these occasions are celebrated by the ladies of my household, so we also had a special family dinner on these days.
The biggest celebration of the month is Diwali and it is the final festival of the month. The experience this year of Diwali and the days leading up to it sure felt like Christmas season back home. The markets had become saturated with home decor (mainly candles and lamps) and general household gifts. Like Christmas many people exchange gifts on Diwali. The city was being lit up with colourful lights, including our neighbourhood.
On Diwali day, friends and family distribute pastries and sweet delicacies to one another and even fruit. Often family members connect with their near and dear ones, and those that are away from home may often return home to celebrate this holiday with their families (again similar to Christmas). Its a common custom for there to be fireworks on the evening of Diwali and again a special family dinner. Along with decorating our house in the evening with candles and oil lamps, we even lit a Chinese lantern and set it free into the night sky this year.
Fifteen days after Diwali (which was early November this year) is Guru Nanak Dev's gurpurab (birthday), kind of like Christmas for the Sikh people. A few days leading up to this event, there were many small events happening around town to mark this occasion. On the day of the gurpurab the city was decorated and there was a huge all day service conducted at the local Sikh temple (free lunch and all). On this day too the city was buzzing.