As a travel writer I have always been intrigued by the religious customs and practices of the place I am visiting. You can easily Google and find tons of information on what to see, what to eat and where to shop but you won’t easily know about the social and religious practices that the people follow which gives the place its real essence.
During one such travel sojourn in Uttarkhand, I came across an interesting festival called Baikunth Chaturdash.
I was sitting idly on my balcony sipping morning tea and enjoying the winter sun of the hills when I saw a big group of women walking briskly towards the, otherwise unattended temple on the other end of the road. And every few minutes there groups of women kept entering the temple gates and then walking out of it no sooner than they entered.
Intrigued by this movement not a common sight in this otherwise quiet town, I walked up to the temple. It turns out to be a festival day.
The festival is known as the Baikunth Chaturdashi and is celebrated mostly in hill areas of Uttarakhand.
Women, as usual are to keep fast on this day and visit every temple in their vicinity or as many temples as they can cover by foot. They offer some prasad (sweets) and pour water over the idols in every temple. This temple hopping is carried out till evening. The festival culminates by lighting 365 diyas and afloating them in the holy Ganga River.
Smelling some story here I asked my next question, “Why 365 diyas?”
One lady from the group enthusiastically answered, “See didi, in this hectic mundane life one might not get enough time to visit temples or pray on a regular basis so today we pray for the whole year. We visit all the temples and light one diya for each day, that is why 365 diyas”. She replied beaming with joy while I felt like a reporter.
Ah! How convenient? Who says Hindu religion is not accommodating? I smiled and clicked a few pictures while ladies enjoyed being clicked and basked in their 15 minutes of fame.