The fall ushers in the Hindu holiday season, with one major festival following another. Many of the artisans are Hindus, and they celebrate with dance, decorations, and special foods.
Ganesh Chaturthi begins the season with a 10-day celebration of the god Ganesh (appropriate, as Ganesh is the god of beginnings). The festival involves setting up clay images of Ganesh in homes and public. At the end, parades carry the statues to nearby bodies of water to immerse them and allow them to dissolve. Ganesh has a sweet tooth, so celebrations often include preparing his favorite sweet dumpling.
Navratri is a 9-night festival celebrating the victory of good over evil as well as goddess power. It is observed throughout India, although celebrations vary by region. In the northwest, the festival often involves special diets or fasting, a symbolic clay pot, circle dances and local music. In the traditional dances, concentric circles of dancers move around in synchronized steps, incorporating clapping and sometimes the striking of special sticks.
Navratri leads into Dussehra, also celebrating good over evil. In different areas, this centers on the god Rama or the goddess Durga. There may be processions with clay statues, plays in which effigies of demons are burned, dance performances, and special ceremonies at home and in temples. It is traditional to ask for blessings on household goods and work-related tools, such as cooking pots, books, computers, rickshaws – and sewing machines! Decorating with marigolds has a long tradition in India.
Diwali, the festival of lights, is one of India’s biggest and most joyous celebrations and Indians of all religions enjoy taking part. As it symbolizes the victory of light over darkness it is celebrated by decorating with light: stringing electric lights on buildings, or lighting traditional oil lamps. The night is for fireworks and firecrackers. It is also a time to clean house, buy new clothes, exchange gifts and prepare special foods. Observant Hindus include special prayers, often dedicated to Lakshmi, the goddess of fertility and prosperity.