Invited into the Light of Diwali

“When everything is lost, and all seems darkness, then comes the new life and all that is needed.” (Joseph Campbell)

Sharing the Light

It all began with the strike of a match in the midst of total darkness. People were waiting anxiously and the excitement was building for that one moment…that moment of “ahhhhhhhhh” when one could breathe out the stress of the past and open to the sheer wonder of the present…the freeing that comes with a new year.

Standing In The Glow

I was thrilled to be asked to photograph Diwali, the Hindu festival of Lights this past Thursday night. It is celebrated every year here in the northern hemisphere between late October and early November, depending upon when the 15th day of the Hindu month, Kartik falls. The festivities go on for typically 4 or 5 days with each day rooted in its own legends and myths and serving to illuminate one’s spirit with the brilliance of joy. At the center of each legend is the victory of good over evil, wisdom over ignorance, light over darkness and hope over despair.

Living With Light Through The Years

Holding Onto The Light

Aartis or devotional hymns are sung eulogizing Goddess Lakshmi with sweets and fruits offered to her. Homes and businesses are illuminated and new clothes are worn as a sign of respect and thanks to the heavens for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace and prosperity.

Passing the Torch from Parent to Child

Families, young and old all gathered around outside the Bharatiya Temple At 7:30, the night sky was totally lit up with brilliant colors surging high into the air, released from their pent up containers. Fireworks ignite that spirit of wonder no matter how many times we see them! According to one belief, the loud explosive sound is the way to let the gods know of the people’s thanks and joy from the earth.

Diwali Festival of Light

While the fireworks were going off overhead, people were passing around sparklers, sharing that dancing, popping light from family to family. It was all such a spirited celebration. Everyone was smiling, hugging and sending along well wishes. This was the first time I had the privilege of attending a Diwali festival and the brilliant joy that each spark gave off was totally enveloping. I loved photographing on this night, even though the exposure and color were challenging, it led to interesting blur, lighting so blown out and brilliant that I just went with it to capture the mood and the essence.

Light and Movement

As Joseph Campbell said,”…then comes the new life and all that is needed.” It is believed that, “Diwali is an opportunity to cultivate and connect with eternal bliss.” On Thursday night, I did!

Holi at the Bharatiya Temple

Holi Festival

Holi Festival

 

 

Holi Video Link  <iframe src=”//player.vimeo.com/video/89756373″ width=”640″ height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>

 

Rather than being in the midst of falling white snow, I was thrilled to be in the midst of multi-colored powders falling over a thoroughly joyous crowd! Holi is the Hindu Festival marking the coming of Spring, light and hope and after this winter, it was so appreciated!  This exuberant festival also commemorates the immortal love of Krishna and Radha and is spread over 16 days in Vrindavan, India, at the temple of Lord Krishna. It is one long colorful love fest! Who would not want to photograph this?! When I was there a few years ago and happened to mention that I definitely wanted to come back for Holi, they all just laughed at me and told me I must not like my camera very much!  This year, I so wanted to travel with a friend, Tewfic El-Sawy, The Travel Photographer,  as he lead a photographic expedition and workshop to this sacred site (click on the link to see amazing photographs!) It was not to be but as fate would have it,  I received an special invitation through a student (Thank you so much Anika!) to come and celebrate with the local Hindu community in Chalfont, Pa. From the moment Conrad Louis- Charles and I walked in, we were taken right into the midst of the celebration.  We were offered delicious food from Bombay Spice – II (just looking at their website could make you hungry!) We were then escorted into a tent and instantaneously felt the spirit of community and just sheer fun!  Winter was finally over… and now it is time to CELEBRATE and that we all did!  As the day went into night, a bonfire was lit to chase away evil.  This was now a time for the Hindu people to reflect and offer gifts of thanks to the gods. Roses, oils, rice and coconuts which are considered the perfect food having the drink, meat and bowl together were the gifts given from their hearts.  While the people were offering their appreciation, I was offering my sincere gratitude for the welcome and the care people took when painting my face and not my camera! I am not sure my friends were as lucky! Finally, I was able to celebrate and photograph Holi!  Life is so good!