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Diwali in a Haveli

This year I spent Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, with a family in a restored haveli in eastern Rajasthan. A haveli is a traditional north Indian mansion built around a central courtyard. There are lots of alcoves, nooks and crannies in the walls of these old homes and soon after sunset we had filled the entire front courtyard and entryway of the house with twinkling tea lights. We painted designs in the doorways to welcome the Hindu goddess Lakshmi and gathered in front of the family's shrine in the central courtyard to offer puja or prayers and songs. On the silver tray or thaali in the photo are some of the items used by the family in worship: a diya or clay lamp filled with oil and a cotton wick dipped in ghee, puffed rice and marigolds.

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