Happy Divali

(*click on the photo to enlarge and fully experience the madness)

We knew something was afoot when we chanced on a couple of guys making a paper-mache face, right outside the Hanuman Temple baths, about 3 weeks ago… they told us to come back on October 16 for Divali. There would be lights, parties, sweets and enormous demons, pronounced by all as “day-mone,” parading through the streets. All of these activities sound like something you could get your head wrapped around, sculptures, Indian holiday, should be cool . . . But holy crap – Divali was AWESOME – in the truest sense of the word – it was huge, holy and unimaginable. Picture every neighborhood, or ‘colony’ as they say, pooling time, energy, creativity and resources to create the biggest, scariest, most bad-ass day-mone – driving around the week before peeked our interest and excitement for the Friday night holiday. There were teenagers and young kids perched on derelict scaffolding stuffing the large sculpture with hay, wrapping him with fabrics, dousing sparkles everywhere – my kind of shiny, maximalist artistic creation. Fearless kids making massive structures, as they do every year. I loved it.

Then the actual night was upon us – the energy in the market was palpable and busy with excitement, decorations, last-minute supplies and bright colors. We relaxed for a few hours, to get out of the heat and went back out around 9pm, as the daymones and the parties were in full effect. Teenage boys gyrating to the pulse of intense Indian house music, thumping from suspended speakers by the green snake demon – all the little ones who worked on it, informing me – “ANACONDA! ANACONDA!” Ok. Wow. Kids coming up to us, giving us high-5s, shaking our hands – “HAPPY DIVALI” around every turn. Daymones lining the streets, big and small – the smaller, in fact, the more disturbing… Just when we think we’ve seen the biggest or the scariest creature, we run into the parade, where the daymones are moving, each body part commanded by a young man, jumping and whistling to the sounds of “RRROOOOARRHH” and “MMMUUUHHA HAA” and “BLEEEGGGGHH” that emanates out of the loud-speaker/mouth. It’s so nuts! D and I are standing, jaws agape, in shock and awe that is Divali.

And then, in a massive, ethereal/Buddhist, performance-art gesture, all the daymones are lit on fire while fireworks light up the sky and booms threaten to burst your ears. The next day, all that’s left is the ash piles, sleepy folks, boys back to normal (i.e not thrusting their crotches at old ladies in the street), and closed restaurants– Dave and I picked our lower lips up from off the floor and marvel at another day NOT in the States.

Mantra for today:
Anaconda snake demon will burn at night, its ashes will float down the pink Mandovi River.

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