Not to be confused with Diwali.
Dev Deepawali or Dev Diwali in Varanasi, also known as Tripura Purnima Snan is a festival of lights which is observed every year on Kartik Poornima and celebrated 15 days after Diwali.
On this full moon day, celebrated on 5th November, the ghats of the city are lit up with more than a million earthen lamps (diyas). The tradition of decorating the ghats with these lamps is a relatively new one. It was first observed at the Panchganga Ghat in 1985. It is said that the Gods themselves come down to earth to have a bath in the holy Ganges on this auspicious day.
I happened to visit Varanasi just a few days ago to experience this beautiful and out of the world celebration. I stayed at the International Chandramauli Charitable Trust, which is basically a school for bal brahmachari kids where they are not only taught Sanskrit but also Vedic Literature, English Literature, Mathematics, English Grammar, Music and also Computers. After interacting with the kids, who are here from various places like Mathura, Agra and Vrindavan, I was moved by their simple lifestyle and decided to record their way of celebrating Dev Dipawali.
Their food is basic and consists of chapattis, rice and vegetables, but on this day a special bhog was prepared in which they also took part. The special bhog of puris, specially prepared vegetables with paneer, rice and mithai was one of the best meals of my life. Later in the evening the kids decorated the stairs and rooftop of the building with diyas, and fanush (sky lanterns) were flown into the sky to mark the end of the celebrations.
The bhog prepared by the cook and assisted by the brahmachari kids
Freshly prepared puris
The kids pray before eating
Decorating the boundary wall
Stairway to heaven
View from the rooftop
Decorating the staircase with diyas
One diya lights another
No corner left unattended
A fanush being flown into the sky to mark the end of the celebration
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By Rana Pandey
Photographs by Rana Pandey