Happy New Year!

Nov 13, 2007 in

Right now I sit in the nighttrain back from Bikaner, Rajasthan. I was there for just three days but got a lot of impressions and much to tell.1

On the 9th of November, Diwali was celebrated throughout India. Diwali, “The festival of lights”, is as important as for them as Christmas for us. It marks the victory of good over evil and the time when Rama came back home after defeating the evil ten-headed demon Ravana, King of Lanka (today: Sri Lanka). A week or so before Diwali, the Indians celebrate Dusshera, the Defeat of Ravana.
They built huge statues of Ravana and his evil demon sons out of cardboard, wood etc. and filled them up with firecrackers. In the evening, somebody dressed up as Rama would come and shoot burning arrows at the statues that were up to 20 meters high. Boom. :-D

According to the legend, Brahma granted Ravana the right to be not be able to be killed by any creature on earth (including the demigods). The demigods then pleaded to Vishnu to set an end to him, so Vishnu reincarnated himself as a human (Rama) to kill Ravana 2.
However, Diwali is celebrated with loads of fireworks, too. It’s basically like our Silvester in Germany but with more fireworks & firecrackers and more blinking light strings in all colors and sizes. And the market is as full of people as on the evening of the 23rd December.
I spent Diwali in Bikaner. Unfortunately, when it got dark and more and more kids started to blow up the streets and turned them into a sulphur pit, I got lost in the alleyways of Bikaner (again). So it was not so nice for me. But eventually, after lots of misdirections by locals, I found my way to an auto rickshaw.

Apropos legends and demigods:
Thirty kilometers from Bikaner there is a temple of a local demigod – Karniji. As I understood it, Karniji didn’t want that Death gets the people of her tribe – so villagers who died were directly reborn as rats and after that were reborn as members of the tribe, again.
So, the Karni matra temple is full of thousands of rats. However, I think this place looks pretty disgusting. The ground is not only full of rats but also full of leftovers and scraps, dead rats and shit. To have to enter that place without your shoes (which is common for Hindu temples) doesn’t make it any more pleasant. Overall, the rats don’t look any better and healthier than if they lived in a sewer. I really wonder why. Is it in the nature of rats, do they find against each other, …?

1 And I’d be really happy if more of you would start to give some feedback to it.

2 There is of course more to it than just this. The full story includes – amongst other things – that Ravana kidnapped Rama’s wife before, that’s why he attacked Lanka (Sounds familiar, eh?). But there is even much more to it. ;-) This is all part of the ancient Sanskrit epic called the Ramayana.

Me before leaving to Bikaner
Diwali lights on the gate to the old city
Railway road at Diwali
You’d expect a camel there ;-)
Cute rats at the rat temple
The streets of Bikaner
Endless steppe
Cool weapons in the Junagarh fort. There was a 3m long long rifle, too :-D
One of the many rooms in the palace in Junagarh fort
A contemporary illustration of the ten-headed demon Ravana ;-)