The Great Indian Annual Pilgrimage

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I have been MIA in the real sense; i.e missing in action for almost a month now! K and I were away on our annual trip to India and were busy hopping between his hometown Delhi, my hometown Raniganj (a small town in West Bengal), with short visits to Kolkata, Lucknow and Agra thrown in!

Despite this holiday not being touristy in nature, careful planning is essential. When to visit, duration of the visit and who all to visit are crucial decisions. Given that family ties are paramount for most Indians, including us, we have to ensure that we meet all our close family – who in most cases extend beyond just parents, grand parents and siblings! Having done this for three years running, we are quite the pro now.

Diwali Market in Delhi

Diwali Market in Delhi

We timed our visit this year to coincide with Diwali (one of the biggest festivals celebrated in India and also called the ‘festival of lights’). This is one of the most festive times to be in India. The cities and markets are bedecked with lights and flowers. Sweet shops are overflowing with Indian delicacies and just like there are Christmas markets all over the world, there are Diwali markets and melas (fairs) all over, selling the most amazing decorations, clothes and gifts, not to mention the yummy food. The atmosphere is full of happiness and cheer and the weather, being the beginning of winter, is just perfect.

Despite the nightmarish traffic and chaos on Delhi roads, the week prior to Diwali was spent shopping with family, playing cards with friends and eating all our favourite foods – all of which, let me tell you, are Diwali traditions!

Savouries at a market

Savouries at a market

Some of the houses lit up for Diwali

Some of the houses lit up for Diwali

The actual Diwali day was spent in Raniganj with my folks, siblings and their kids. The day began in a frenzy as I realised that we needed a lot more lights around the house and a lot more flowers in the room where the actual puja (prayer ritual), would be performed. So off we went to gather the essentials. After a few hours of pure craziness, we were able to get the house in order and the decorations in place for a grand Diwali in many years.

Dressing up for this festival is another important facet. This includes wearing beautiful sarees or kurtas and pairing them up with gold ornaments and trinkets. Traditionally, new clothes are supposed to be worn on this day. However, as time has gone by, and we have grown up (read older), most of us just wear what we have, or in my case – borrow!

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Post Diwali, things settled down a little for us too. K went back to Delhi while I stayed on at my parent’s for a little longer. The next two weeks were spent catching up with more of the family and tons of friends, many of who were also visiting India from overseas.

Thus ended our whirlwind three-week holiday, but not before squeezing in a day trip to Agra, to see the majestic Taj Mahal. More on this in my next post.

Ready for the puja

Ready for the puja

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9 thoughts on “The Great Indian Annual Pilgrimage

  1. I also just got back from my bi-annual visit home. Exhausting! I can totally relate to the pressure of planning properly and seeing everyone. I totally failed at it this year and missed my sister 😦

    • Exhausting it is! I usually need a week to unwind when we get back. I would think bi- annual would make things easier..but looks like not! Shame you missed your sister…guess she ,use come to Joburg now!

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