Wednesday, January 19, 2011


photographer - Matt Staley

Aadmi Azaad Hai - Welcome to Sajjanpur (Kailash Kher) by albertorojas

"If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions, I should point to India" - Max Mueller

It's already pretty obvious what choicest of gifts the Indians have fully developed: festivals, and a lot of them. What better way to stay happy if you have a festival every other week, or sometimes one day after the other, or even better, every day of the week?

Lohri - The Festival of Fire

A sikh family celebrates Lohri with a local drum group. Photographer - Matt Staley
According to my landlord, Pradeep, Lohri is a festival that "celebrates the beginning of the end of winter." The beginning of the end? I see total possibilities for a middle of the end of winter and the end of winter festivals. According to my Hindi teacher, Gita, Lohri is celebrated by farmers, who says that the winter season's end is good reason to celebrate for the coming of spring. According to the official, Lohri is celebrated for newly weds and new born children. So really, I have no specific idea of why Lohri even exists. What I observed? Bonfires, drums, feasting, and lots of ridiculous dancing. Oh, and the bonfires are in the middle of the street, made of anything that burns...

Our front gate, an entrance to the festivities. Photographer - Matt Staley

What Indians will do for Lohri when a baby is born. Photographer - Matt Staley
When we arrived back to the apartment that evening, the entire block was filled with a massive tent. It turns out that a child had been born recently and the family was celebrating by having a massive dinner with an extensive family attendance. When we walked by, the grandfather of the family (seen above in the very middle of the picture in a nice suit) immediately introduced himself and apologized for the ruckus going on right on our doorstep. He then insisted that we attend this occasion at our leisure. Awesome. And what better an excuse to dress super fly in my punjabi kurta? Azzar and I got the entire crew to get down on it as well, and soon enough we were a troop of 6 kurta-laden men and one fancily shawled woman.

The kurta crew...
Getting ridiculous!
Om nom nom. Photographer - Matt Staley
Earlier that day, I went on a frantic search for thick rope and kerosene... yes, if there was going to be a fire festival right in front of my apartment and all through the neighborhood with troops of drummers causing a ruckus, so was I with fire dancing. I made some makeshift fire rope by dipping thick pieces into a bucket of kerosene. The result was awesome, especially with the attendance of 5-6 drummers, the surrounding neighborhood, and ridiculously stoked/dancing children.

Me fire dancing =
stoked children...
and more stoked children (and stoked Nick). Photographer - Jilly Jefferson

Funny thing is, there was another festival the next day, Uttarayan and accompanied the Kite Festival. Mostly celebrated in the province of Gujarat, hundreds of kites fill the sky and celebrate the actual day when the sun begins its northward direction and officially signals the decline of winter.

More festivals will soon arrive. Some of these include
  • Republic Day - January 26
  • Mawlid (the Prophet Muhammad's Birthday) - February 19
  • Holi - March 20
I am certain that there are a plethora of festivals that I have not even discovered yet. So is the greatest gift of India to me, surprises of citywide, province-wide, and nationwide festivals. In the good words of my friend Jason: "PARTY PARTY PARTY (all the time)!"

Photographer - Jilly Jefferson

Photographer - Matt Staley