Diwali in India - Celebrated differently!

Wishing you all and your families a very happy and prosperous Diwali/Dipavali!

Diwali or Dipavali is the biggest festival in India. A festival which is celebrated across the country. "Festival of lights" as it is called is a time for families to come together and celebrate with joy. Communities come together in bonhomie. 

India being such a diverse country, it was not a surprise to read about Diwali being celebrated differently in some parts of our own home state , Karnataka. Away from the noises of crackers here are two unique traditions which are interesting.

Diwali celebration by Lambanis

Lambanis are nomadic tribes who are found in large numbers in the central districts of Chitradurga, Davanagere and Bellary. A hard working tribe who have a their unique tradition and culture, Diwali is celebrated in a differently by them. In "Tandas" as Lambani settlements are known, Diwali is celebrated by unmarried girls. Many Hindu festivals are normally observed by married women. But here is a difference. Men and married women are not allowed to join the festivities! 

Diwali or "Dawali" as it is called by Lambanis is celebrated by unmarried girls. Starting with worshipping of Goddess Lakshmi on new moon day - the second day of Diwali - the girls get dressed up in traditional attire and carry traditional oil lamps to the head of the tanda - village head - and worship the deity in his house. On the next day - "Bali Padyami" - these girls go into the forests early in the morning to pluck the wild flowers, dancing and singing all along. After collecting flowers, they reach the temple of village goddess and worship her with the flowers collected.

From the temple, the girls visit every home in the tanda, light the traditional lamp in the house and bless it. The rounds of the houses done, the sound of drums invite the girls to come to the house of village head man. Fully decked in traditional lambani dress which is very colourful, the girls reach the house where festivities start. The girls dance to Lambani folk tunes accompanied by drum beats. The lovely rhythm and colourful attire of the girls is a treat to the eyes. Fire crackers are burst during this time. The dance normally take 2 hours after which the elders bid farewell to the girls who go to the temple of village goddess again and pay obeisance. 

Temple rituals done, the girls go to every house in the evening where holy cow dung is worshipped with offering of milk and flowers. The rituals end with everyone in the tanda getting together for festive dinner in the house of village head man.

Building castles on Diwali

We don't know when this tradition started. But this is quite interesting. 

In some villages of Belgaum district, Diwali brings in the spirit of castle building among the children. As soon as Dasara festivities end, the children start planning for building miniature castles in the village on Diwali day. Using local materials, these children design their castles with imagination. Long holidays for school during Dasara help them to start preparations early. The kids in the village go around and collect donations to build the castle. 

Theses castles look real with gates, turrets, guard houses, cannons and of course the king on the throne! The competitive spirit among the kids ensure that you get the best out of them. The elders in the villages judge the winner of the best castle and the team making it is awarded. 

These castles have become cynosure with people from neighbouring villages and towns descending to see them. 

Check out this nice video by Prakash Manjrekar on the castle building

If you are around these villages or driving in the region, check out these lovely castles!

Postscript - This is a abridged and translated version of articles which was published in "Prajavani" the leading Kannada newspaper. We are thankful to the authors Usha Prashant ( for Lambanis) and Sudhakar Talawara ( For Castle).

You may also check the following interesting posts on "Diwali in India" by clicking the link below.

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Monday Medley - Spotting Ravan in Bidar!

Monday Medley - A potpourri of interesting experiences, articles, posts from fellow bloggers which we liked, books we loved, interesting images of fellow travellers or images from our own portfolio. Published on Sundays. We hope it will be a good start to the week ahead......

We were in Bidar in North Karnataka on Vijaya Dashami day. This is the last day of Dasara or Navaratri which is a major festival and one of the few which is celebrated across the country.

We did not expect to see with Ravan and companions in the city. It was surprising to see the effigies of Ravan, Kumbhakaran and Meghnad in the heart of the city as Ram Leela is generally celebrated in North India. The enthusiastic local youth were preparing the Ram Leela ground for Ravan Dhahan or burning of Ravan's effigy in the evening.

The effigies themselves were colourful. All three of them sported thick Moustache typical of the region. The dress they worn was also like the ones traditionally worn by the people in the region.

The facial expression of Ravan said it all. He seems to resigned to his karma where as Kumbhakaran and Meghnad seemed to ready for another bout of fight!

We asked the organisers if we can click these pictures on a sunny afternoon with few clouds hanging in the sky.

There you are. The three demons basking in the sun. Click on the picture to see it in original size.

Postscript - Ravan, Kumbhakaran and Meghnad are three important characters in Indian Epic Ramayana. Ram Leela is a tradition of village theater played out in North India depicting the story of Ramayana on the stage during the week of Dasara. The effigies are burnt on the last day of Navratri symbolising defeat of Ravan at the hands of Ram.

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Ladakh Diaries 9 - Stunning Nubra Valley!

After a fascinating drive to the White lake or Tso Kar on the previous day ( Please click on this link to read about it here Ladakh Diaries 8 - Tso Kar, "The White Lake" @ 15,000 feet) we were ready to leave for Khardung La and beyond - To Nubra valley.

The drives in Ladakh are the spellbinding part of travel to this magnificent region. Every drive is special. Every drive has something special. Every time you drive in Ladakh you will will end up with some surprises. This was true during this drive as well.

Nowang, our friendly driver was ready at the Army officers' mess in Nimmu at 7.30 AM. An early fauji breakfast of Poori and Alu Baji with Egg bujia made us ready for the long drive. The sun was up and bright. The sky was clear too with few clouds. Driving along Indus river, we crossed Leh town and turned towards Khardungla. This was our second drive to the highest motorable pass in the world. First thing which surprised us was the lovely tarmac compared to the one we drove on four years ago. Except for a small patch after South Pullu, the road was fantastic. The harsh summer of Ladakh in August meant that there would not be much snow along the way. Still the vistas were lovely. Hop in and let us drive along............... (please click on the pictures to see them in original size)

Shanti Stupa glowing in morning sun light as we climb...
A monastery perched on top of a hillock
The lovely newly laid winding road to Khardungla
A Panoramic view of the valley blow as we start our climb
The view of the Stok Kangri range of Ladakh. Notice lack of snow on the mountains.
First view of a small glacier.
The winding road brought us to KT or Khardungla Top as it is known locally. We were in for a disappointment. There wasn't any snow whatsoever. Our memories went back four years ago when the pass was full of snow. Still the ecstasy of standing on the highest motorable pass of the world was worth all the trouble of driving up 6000 feet in 2 hours. The saving grace were the few snow covered peaks around the pass providing a lovely backdrop.

Tricolour flying high on the summit
Few snow covered peaks around Khardung La Top .....

Savouring black tea at K Top. Notice absence of snow around the place. But it was chilly and windy though.
A quick cup of black chai in the small shop run by Ladakh Scouts, we were back on the road. We had not been to Nubra during our last trip to Ladakh. Naturally we were excited. As we descended, the first few KMs from Khardungla Top was narrow and under construction. Once we crossed this stretch, it was a bliss of a drive! The road was awesome. The sights were spectacular. We seems to have started where we had left on the previous day. The undulating valleys were surrounded by lofty mountain peaks. Tiny hamlets along the way were conspicuous of their green fields contrasting with surrounding brown landscape. Deep gorges and ravines weathered down by winds. Shyok river flowing gently........We are now in stunning Nubra valley!

Nubra Valley
Stunning earth formations on the way to Hunder
The ravines were spectacular too.....
Nubra Valley
Then the stunning colours......
And some natural wonders!!!

Nubra Valley
Then there were Yaks feeding n wild grass
Monotony of brown disturbed by lovely green......
The valley view only got better as we drove on......
The vastness was mind blowing.....
Nubra Valley
The formations are stunning.....
Nubra Valley
------with snow caped peaks peeping out like an icing on the cake!
Nubra Valley
Then we also saw these mud fortresses!!
Nubra Valley
A small little lake with the statue of Buddha in the middle
Nubra Valley
Small villages with stunning views...
Nubra Valley
And quiet flows Shyok.....
Nubra Valley
We now turn right from the highway towards Diskit and Hunder. The landscape dramatically changes and how!
Nubra Valley
First sight of Diskit Monastery
Nubra Valley
.......and first sight of Avalokiteshwara....
How was the drive? Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. 

It was breathtakingly beautiful. We loved every minute of it. We reached Diskit Monastery, one of the largest in Ladakh. A visit to the monastery, exploring the sands of Hunder and customary ride on Bactrian camel was next on the agenda. 

Travel Tips

a) The road from Leh to Nubra valley is in good condition except for few KMs before Khardungla Top and immediately when you start descending from it.

b) Good roads has its own drawback. We saw dangerously rash driving by the cab drivers. Make sure you tell your driver in uncertain terms to drive safe.

c) If you leave Leh in the morning, you can comfortably reach Hunder by evening after visiting Diskit monastery. You can have lunch in Khalsar. We tried Tukpa, the Tibetan noodle soup in one of the restaurant and it was tasty.

d) Make sure you stop and savour the magnificent vistas on the way. 

e) We were in august and it was hot and there was no snow in Khardung La Top.  A week later weather changed and people were stuck in blizzard! The weather in mountains is always unpredictable. Be prepared for it.

f) Don't stay for more than 15 minutes in Khardung La Top. Do not over exert yourself by running etc. 

g) Ladakh scout has a nice store for memorabilia. Pick out something for the keepsake.

This is the ninth post in "Ladakh Diaries" series in this blog. If you want to explore earlier posts  on our experiences in Ladakh please click the link below. Once you complete reading each post please click "older posts" at the end of the page which will take you to previous posts in the series.

Ladakh Diaries - Our experiences in Ladakh

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