Diwali is celebrated in the same way in most places in the country but there are some notable exceptions. Savarkundla town in Amreli district and Bhuj, the district headquarters of Kutch district, are unique for their different Diwali celebrations.
Savarkundla’s Diwali has its origin in the times when the entire region was ruled by a princely estate. In those times, there were two villages — Savar and Kundla — separated by River Naavli.
Residents of the two villages would gather on their side of the river every Diwali and hurl fire-crackers at each other as if they were fighting a war. Of course, it was all make-believe and no one was ever hurt.
Not only this. Even today, Savarkundla villagers do not buy firecrackers from the market as they make them at home. The homemade firecrackers are called Ingoriya and Kokdi. When lit, both burn like small flowerpots.
“Ingoriya is the fruit of a tree that grows in the wild. Everything inside the fruit is removed and the hollow shell is filled with potash, coal powder and other inflammables. Kokdi is also made of wood derived from wild bamboo,” said Sahkti Rathod, a local resident who has been participating in the Diwali celebrations for the last one decade.
Nobody in the town actually knows exactly when the unique Diwali celebrations began. “All that we know is that the Maharaja of Bhavnagar started this as an event so that all could celebrate Diwali. Now, it is a ritual. Around 100 people from each side of the river take part,” Rathod said.
In Bhuj, Diwali is celebrated not so much as a religious festival, but as an festival to bring the community together. Dhanteras, the first day of Diwali, is marked by an early morning aarti at Hatkeshwar temple situated near the Hamirsar Lake in Bhuj. It begins at around 5:50 am. A community known as Vadnagra Nagar — believed to be descendants of Saint Narsinh Mehta — participates in the aarti in a big way.
As soon as the aarti is over, participants gather at Mahadev Naka near Hamirsar Lake and fire crackers. “This tradition is very old. It was started by the Nagars but now people of all communities participate in it. Firing crackers near Hamirsar is now a ritual for all communities,” said Atul Mehta, president of Vadnagra Nagar Vyavasthapak Mandal.
He said that from 6:00am in the morning, elders, youths and children gather near Hamisar to fire crackers on all the three days of the festival —Dhanteras, Kali Chaudas and Diwali itself,” said Mehta. Savarkundla residents fight mock war on Diwali.