Sunday, October 30, 2011

Celebrating Diwali Bhutanese Style

This last Friday I went to my friend's house in Thimphu to celebrate Diwali with her family. This occasion is also commonly known as the "festival of lights" and it is perhaps one of the more important celebrations for Hindus. My friend told me that on that day sisters had to put tica on the forehead of their brothers, as a way to wish them  long life and blessings. Tica is made out of a drop of flour which is decorated with colored powder.Sisters also had to put  collars of bright orange flowers (called seshometo) on their brothers. The brothers in return will pay their sisters or give them a gift

As I entered my friend's apartment, the front door of her apartment was decorated with letters that read " Happy Diwali ". The ceiling of her living room was adorned with colorful chains of paper which went from one side of the room to the other. The chains were blue, pink, purple and yellow. On the walls there were images of  The Fourth and Fifth  King and also a huge poster which read " Find Peace in Sikkim".  My friend opened the door of one of the rooms and to my surprise about 10 or 15 family members were gathered inside observing how one sister was putting the tica over her brother's forehead. There was a sense of joy and celebration in the atmosphere of the room. Little kids were laughing and all the family members were very attentive to what was happening. They all received me with a big smile. 

Next to the brother´s lap there was a big plate with a candle which was lit, orange flowers, a bowl with rice  with some flower petals, color powder, and walnuts. According to my friend  before the tica is placed, rice is thrown over the head of the brother.Once the tica is put on the forehead, a walnut is crushed. This symbolizes the overcoming of the devil and evil by the blessing of the tica. The uncle of my friend actually told me that a brother could be on the verge of death, but that once the sister gives her blessings through the tica, the life of the brother is extended. Even though I am not a boy, my friend placed some tica over my forehead so that I could be part of the experience. We also ate some " selroti" which is a kind of dessert eaten during this celebration. I was also offered buffalo meat and some delicious chicken with curry. The next morning we sat and watched the cartoon story of Vishnu on T.V. 

Reflecting on this experience, my first impression is that Diwali is an important opportunity for family members to come together and enjoy each other's company and blessings through the different ceremonies they perform. The brother's day is a clear example of it. It definitely provides an opportunity for sisters and brothers to evaluate their relationship and show affection for one another. I believe that it was very significant for me to participate in this ceremony and after participating I feel closer to my friend. I am especially  honored to have been invited as a guest to her house and being able to celebrate this occasion with her family. Her family was very curious of the type of traditions I celebrate back home. I told them about the way I celebrate Christmas and how my family would also come together and celebrate. There was a sense of a shared experience in terms of how important it is to be with your family and celebrate that relationship through different  traditions.


By : Marijose Vila 2013

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