Monday, November 4, 2013

A California Diwali!

When it starts getting cooler in Venice, and our weekends are no longer solely focused on the beach, we begin what we call "Field Trip Season." Checking out places and things we haven't done before, and yes, actually crossing Lincoln Boulevard.

Yesterday we kicked off the season in a wonderful fashion by trekking to Chino Hills to see the Diwali festivities at the enormous Hindu temple there. Diwali is the Hindu new year, and all the revelers and the temple itself were done up in the brightest finery. I had no idea until yesterday that this place even existed, and it's very impressive. HUGE. Driving past on the freeway, you'd think it was a Disney castle or something, but it's actual a sacred place of worship, with each piece (thousands!) of it hand carved and shipped over from India.

The people were so kind and welcoming, as it was very easy to tell we were visitors. I was one of two blonde people there, and people kept looking at us and treating us kind of special since they could tell we had no idea what was going on.

They would give us explanations, compliment our totally out of place clothes, and ask us if we were having a good time, at every turn. I was jealous of all the women, as one was more beautifully adorned than the next, in bright, sparkling saris and dresses. The men all had glitzy tunics on, and everyone seemed to be having a glorious time.

There was a "food court," a big tent serving up vegetarian Indian specialties. We didn't know what anything was, so wound up just asking for one of everything, and sharing it all together on the grass. One in our party declared it "The best Indian food I've ever had (*In America)." High praise, and I didn't concur, but it was pretty good for festival food.

Diwali is known as the "Festival of Lights", so as the sun set we headed over to the grounds in front of the temple to take in the cultural program. (We didn't get to go inside the temple because we were busy eating and they closed it down for the program. Dang.) I couldn't understand one word of the show, but there were guys in orange robes fighting other guys with spears, and people dancing up and down the grand staircase leading up to the temple.

The crowd held little lights like bike lights and waved them around the whole time, in lieu of candles, I guess. It was getting very chilly by this point, and we huddled together on a blanket drinking Indian chai tea and watching the fire lanterns rise from the top of the temple. It was all extremely beautiful, especially that it was all to celebrate a new year of love and harmony.

What a wonderful field trip! Learning, knowing something new, seeing new people and places, feeling like you're nowhere near this country even, expanding our cultural awareness ... those are the goals, and we're off to a great start. Many thanks to those who opened their customs and hearts to us, making us feel more than welcome. Happy Diwali to all who celebrate this lovely occasion!

*Thanks to Vavine for organizing such a cool field trip!


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