Diwali Weekend in Agra

At the end of October, Diwali is one of the biggest festivals in India, which mobilizes the country for five days. This festival of lights consists in venerating the gods to attract long life and prosperity. It is celebrated with family, and is manifested outside by garlands, candles, fireworks, evoking a mixture of Christmas and July 14.

A few weeks before, we already see the locals decorate their homes. The stores also illuminate their facades, taking advantage of this moment where the euphoria is mixed with the usual effervescence. As festive days approach, firecrackers resound in our neighborhood. We enjoy it from the roof of our building.

My friend invites me at his home in Agra. I go buy train tickets at the station and wander in old town on the return. The next day at 5:15, I reach the station near my home on foot. During the holiday season, the trains are crowded and the six hours of travel are not very comfortable. As often, the train is late, and my friend has been waiting for me at Agra station since 1:30.

We meet and buy flowers and sweets for the lakshmi puja at home. At home, the parents of my friend and his little sister warmly welcome me and invite me to nibble potato fries. I go for a nap in the room I have been assigned as I have to be in shape for the evening that awaits me. When I wake up, my friend was preparing the diya in a large metal tray.

Our mission is to put in each clay cup a cotton wick and a spoon of ghee or mustard oil. It's a very enjoyable activity. I discover things and the calm of the house makes me feel good. We lit all the candles and carried the tray outside to arrange them in the driveway. My friends sister decorates a colorful sand plateau welcoming guests. His mother offers us each a traditional outfit.

At prayer time we all sit around the temple of the home. It is a small reserved room, flanked by the living room, where an altar houses statues of deities, flowers, containers, rice, incense. Today, a plate filled with dried cow dung is deposited there. In turn, we proceed to the ritual of prayer. We dip the ring finger in a red pigment to mark statuettes, pieces and dung.

We then have some flowers in these same places, and we throw rice. Finally, we lift the cup of food and the glass of water, for a prosperous future. We play the game very seriously, without fully understanding the meaning. The guests arrive. I spend the evening with my friends uncle, his wife and children. We put chairs and benches in front of the house, and we take a seat to watch the family fireworks.

In this residential area, all the families are outside and each one has a little show. We stay there for a good half hour, then come back to enjoy the hearty meal. We have malai kofta, dal with cream and butter, and paratha. To end the feast, everyone begins to sing under the guidance of the aunt, a singing teacher. First reluctant to their solicitations, I still start.

The uncle beats the rhythm on the marble table, and the traditional songs in local languages ​​are linked together. It is in this warm atmosphere that our evening Diwali ends at 2 am.

Day 2

The morning's sleep makes me miss the post Diwali prayer. I swallow a hearty breakfast at noon with cold milk, corn flakes and grilled bread. We plan to visit Fatehpur Sikri, located 40 km west of Agra. We leave around 9:45, with a full belly, in a auto rickshaw with my friend. It takes one hour to reach the fortified city.

We first visit the complex of palaces and pavilions built by the Mughal emperor Akbar in the late sixteenth century, to mark the new capital of his empire. He stayed there 14 years till he realize that here, the water is less drinkable than elsewhere. The sandstone buildings are separated by esplanades, courtyards and gardens.

They originally welcomed the wives, concubines and maidservants of the emperor. Tourists are numerous. We meet a couple of retirees who tell us about their upcoming visit to Jaipur. I also meet my friends uncle, who is a tour guide and gives us some information. Like most UNESCO sites, it's nice, clean and quiet.

Outside the compound, the Jama Masjid Mosque is worth a detour. We appreciate the free admission, but the street vendors are invasive. A white marble tomb is erected in the immense courtyard delimited by imposing buildings. It houses the body of the one who predicted the birth of an Akbar heir, a truth that initiated the construction of the capital.

We enjoy the view of the small town of Fatehpur as well as the Elephant Tower before joining the shuttle bus back. We return to Agra around 4, with the same auto rickshaw which waited for us. We are hungry and we have some specialties of South India and I eat greedily until saturation. I rest to digest until 9.

All together, we go to his uncle's place, to eat again as much as possible. At dinner, we quickly organize our next day. We spend a good time with the family, having fun with the uncle's jokes. We come back late, and we collapse on our mattresses.

Day 3

At 8:15, we leave the house to reach the bus that takes us to Jaipur in 5 hours. We return home filled with the warm welcome we have been given. We are refreshed like after a weekend in our families.

Diwali Weekend in Agra

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