Divali: The Festival of Lights

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Day 72- Location: Kathmandu, Nepal

13/11/12

It was the third day of Tihar, called Divali (or Diwali), the Hindu festival of lights. I wanted to go around in the evening to see the lights and so I had the day free. I wandered up to Thamel. It was still super-busy in town and I walked some of the backstreets on the way, coming across food stalls selling sweets and cakes for the festival, and many people selling mallas (marigold garlands). In Thamel I went around the shops asking about prices of sleeping bags, jackets and other bits and bobs I’d need for another trek. Now that winter was coming it was going to be very cold up in the Everest region where I was interested in going. Prices wildly varied and in some cases I knew you could get half of what they were originally offering. I also popped into the courier agency I’d used to send my passport application and they confirmed it had arrived in Hong Kong. Good.

A weird walking guy. These iPod t-shirts are really popular here and Facebook ones too.

A guy with a really weird walk. These iPod shirts are really popular here and so are Facebook ones.

 

Busy festival market

Busy festival market

 

Festival mallas

Festival mallas

 

Tihar food for the brothers and sisters day

Tihar food for the brothers and sisters day

Today there were groups of kids going around from shop to shop with drums or tambourine shakers chanting out a repeating song. They would stand in the doorway of the shop making all this noise until the owner brought out some small money to give to them. I saw this throughout the day with loads of groups. It’s kind of their version of our Halloween trick or treat (though no tricks!) and with so many shops in the area they must leave with a good haul!

Children's band

Children’s band

I had a tasty English breakfast bun in a restaurant and continued my hunt, asking about tours and trekking in travel agencies. I found a camera shop which was the first I’d found in Nepal to offer sensor cleaning as a service. I had two spots on my sensor which I couldn’t remove with my blower and so every photo had two dark marks in them. The guy knew what he was talking about and said they could also look at my broken big lens and my broken waterproof camera. I decided to come back later to get everything fixed.

Thamel

Thamel

 

Street butchers. Nice jaw bones.

Street butchers. Nice jaw bones.

 

Some dogs get walked just like home. They are always posh breeds. I was told they often escape and breed with the street dogs to make the funny hybrids you see around!

Some dogs get walked just like home. They are always posh breeds. I was told they often escape and breed with the street dogs to make the funny hybrids you see around!

I walked to the KEEP office that I’d been to before with Camille, to get some more information on treks. Unfortunately it was closed for the festival. On the way I saw a man decorating the ground in front of a hotel entrance with coloured powder. Behind it, leading into the hotel grounds was a trail of orange paint with little red footprints. I asked what it was for and they told me it’s for Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. Further through the day I’d see people doing the same outside many other homes and businesses with designs of varying intricacy.

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I walked back to Freak Street. On the way I bought a hoody, the nights were getting way too cold now for the few layers I owned. I had a nap at the hotel and around 4pm went to the tempo stop near the bus station.

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I caught a tempo going to Bodnath stupa, which I’d visited about a week ago but in the daytime. As today was the festival of lights I was hoping the place would be lit up and I knew the locals did their rounds there in the early evening. Half an hour later I arrived and entered to find the place packed. There were crowds of people walking around the stupa, way more I’d seen the last time I came. There were a lot of Tibetans and some groups of women were singing. A line of beggars were along one section and people would stop to give each one money. The sound of drums, cymbals and horns wafted down from the monastery windows. The sun was already setting and I only got a few golden light photos before the shadow came – I should have come half an hour earlier.

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The line of beggars

The line of beggars

 

Making the daily prayers

Making the daily prayers

 

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Another Laxmi line being constructed leading into the business.

Another Laxmi line being constructed leading into the business.

After a few rounds of the stupa I was hungry and climbed up to a rooftop restaurant in the circle of buildings. The view was good, the stupa in full view and the sky slipping into twilight, temple tops, roofs and the hills in the distance silhouetted against the orangey blue. As I tucked into the tastiest pizza I’d had in my travels (it was only a veggy one too!) I soaked in the atmosphere as loud, alien sounding horns boomed out with the sound of chanting and drums waving over the site.

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It was dark now and I did some more stupa circuits. Outside the shops butter lamps had been lit around the ornate designs painted on the ground in front of each one. Other lamps sat in hollows along the stupa wall. I passed a monk who was sat meditating despite the bustle and hustle passing him.

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Inside a doorway in the stupa wall was a small area where inlaid statues were lit by lamps. I had my tripod and took photos of them, a young kid was watching with interest. I called him over so he could see the camera screen, and let him push the remote trigger to take photos, which he loved.

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Outside I walked by tables full of lit butter lamps for sale, and one small shrine was covered in them, a monk lighting and placing them on steps around it.

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I caught a taxi to Thamel and we drove by buildings wreathed in coloured electric lights. It looked like Christmas. So many buildings had rows of lamps and the Laxmi paint designs on the floors. It was really nice.  In Thamel I dropped my camera off to get the sensor cleaned, and then walked back to Freak St. The lamps sitting along the narrow old streets on the way made for a charming scene, it felt like I’d entered a fairytale book. I popped into the local bar to use the wi-fi and then went to bed.

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