The first sign of Diwali in the Dooars is the sight of Mt.Kanchenjunga against clear blue skies.
Diwali is a fusion of many elements in the Dooars. The Dooars is like a mini- India, and the political climate is not exactly idyllic these days. Yet, its people have a long-standing history of harmonious coexistence, and that has survived here through turbulent times in past years.
Diwali celebrations in the Dooars are spread out over four to five days. What I find most charming about a tea garden Diwali is the quiet atmosphere in all the bustle of activity, and the total darkness against which Diwali lamps and lights sparkle.
It is customary to clean out and spruce up the house before Diwali lights are lit. Our bungalow gets a small face-lift every year, and every worker in the garden gets some 'choona' - lime - and a day off, to whitewash his house. It is the time when we are in the frenzy of sowing seeds for winter vegetables and flowers as well.
When our children are home for Diwali, we get to see a fine Rangoli like this one, over which they slave for a few hours, and very happily, too.
The rangoli all lit up on Diwali night, and below, in detail.
Diwali night invariably coincides with Kali Puja. The Kali Mandir is filled with worshippers, and often the Puja goes on through the night.
For most people in India, the second day of the new moon is Bhai Dooj. Here, it is celebrated as Bhai Phota by Bengalis and Nepalis. Sisters felicitate their brothers, and put a 'tika' on their foreheads, and pray for their long lives. The traditional Nepali goodie at this time is the 'Sil Roti', which is made from rice paste. If Durga Puja brings Bhog Khichdi to mind, Kali Puja means warm sil roti and spicy chutney on chilly evenings. And this, after we've eaten Diwali sweets and mixture, is a welcome change of taste!
For the Adivasi residents of tea gardens, it is the time for 'Jatra'; a song and dance celebration. Groups of men, women and children go around the garden after nightfall, singing, dancing and playing drums.
The groups traditionally visit the Bara Saab and Chhota Saabs at their bungalows, perform for them and pull them in to dance with them, as they did with us.
Below, a video which our elder daughter took of one of the energetic dances, while we tried to keep pace with the dancers. The drum beats are wonderful!