Deepavali–Then and Now



Line of lampsIt is the eve of Deepavali—Dhanteras for the business community. I sit here at my keyboard and think of all the Deepavalis that have gone by. I am in my son’s home and this year my husband and I are not celebrating Diwali due to a bereavement in the family. The family is scattered all over India and the world and we have wished each other Happy Deepavali and sent virtual namaskarams to the few elders alive. We have received many more mails with namaskarams as we are the elders now and replied to these wishes with blessings and good wishes. 

There was a time—I never thought I would be saying these words but time does creep on you unawares, doesn’t it—when the day before Deepavali would be hectically busy. The previous two days would have been spent in the kitchen making savouries and sweets, running to the tailor or shopping for last minute purchases. A frenzy of house cleaning would have resulted in a sparkling, squeaky clean home and hearth. Of course, the custom of making the Deepavali lehyam or marundu, a digestive mixture that is eaten first thing in the morning of Deepavali after the ritual bath, is still in practice.

In our heyday, we took pride in delivering goodies from our family one day ahead—we were the first to do so in our circle. So we would spend the day going from house to house and deliver the little packets of savoury mixture and assorted mithai. My hoard used to be placed in the boot of the car and I would fill plates and cover them with pretty napkins. The homes that we would visit would in turn fill these plates and give it to me to take home. In later years we started using paper plates or Palmyra eco friendly plates covered with cling film packed by me at home with the help of my MIL and mother. My daughter would enjoy packing the little plastic bags with salty stuff.

Today the only thing I prepare is the lehyam that too in the morning so that the dishes would be washed by the maid whose timetable (she leaves at 12ish) was more important than custom. Usually the sweets and savouries are ordered from my family chef who packs them up in beautiful cardboard boxes. All I have to do is gracefully hand out the box to neighbours and as return gift to visitors who come with their offerings. Even this I find trying now—no energy even though the enthusiasm has not diminished.

When I was young, we used to buy little mud lamps from a vendor who brought them to the door in a basket on his head. Then we would soak them for a day in water, dry it and then prepare it with til (sesame) oil and wicks to light on Deepavali and Karthik Poornima. When I lived abroad candles and T-lights replaced these lamps. Then when I lived in Mumbai, the pretty decorated diyas bought at Diwali melas and sales took over. Today the supermarket down the road sells two or four readymade diyas that I light and give as little gifts with the mithai/savouries box.

The methodology may have changed, the numbers in the home diminished, the environment. Yet Deepavali is a time for rejoicing, for celebration and enjoyment.

My son’s home is getting ready to celebrate Deepavali early tomorrow. My husband and I will not have the ritual, before dawn bath but the next gen will do so. We will call the handful of relatives and hoards of friends.

I ask you now as I will my circle of family and friends: “Ganga snanam aacha”…’Have you had the Ganga snan or bath?”

Happy Deepavali and may the values of Truth, Goodness and Beauty Light your way this year and in all the years to come.

God Bless You All!

About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest used to be acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays. I am now an Armchair traveller/opinionator/busybody!
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4 Responses to Deepavali–Then and Now

  1. Rummuser says:

    Incredible memory Sweetheart! You took me back to more than six decades! Blessings and best wishes to all of you at Bengaluru.


  2. Grannymar says:

    Nice trip down memory lane with you, Padmini.


  3. Anu says:

    Things have changed a lot, as kids I remember Diwali was a sort of family get together time. The ladies would be involved in cooking (which is not possible now, as most of us are working and would rather buy than cook!) and men doing nothing….., while kids (us!) enjoying, playing, bursting whatever crackers we could lay our hands on. It use to be fun. Now, it mostly talking on the phone and wishing each other Happy Diwali……..


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