October is a festive month in India as usually this is when people here celebrate Diwali, the holiday of light, festivity of victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair. The exact date depends on the Hindu calendar and the moon, but it falls somewhere between mid-October, mid-November. This year it means that the yoga institute will be closed for a couple of days during our stay here and we cannot practice yoga there. First I was rather disappointed because this means that instead of the four very intense weeks of practice we would only have a bit over three weeks. But then why not explore Pune a little more?
An Indian teacher explained to us very kindly that during Diwali, everybody celebrates his/her own chosen god, but the most popular is the celebration of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and fertility. During the five days of holiday, they clean their houses and then decorate them with small oil lamps, colourful paper lanterns and sparkling electric lights, light firecrackers and fireworks, take special Ayurvedic baths, eat sweets, buy presents for each other and do a lot of poojas (prayers). One day is dedicated to the adoration of gold and tradespeople open their new accounting books on that day. Other days are dedicated to husband-wife, and yet another to sister-brother relationship. They visit each other in their homes, buy each other something new, usually dresses or gold, if they can afford that. We saw in local newspapers that at the moment, most of the advertisements were about where and how you can buy or win gold bars.
Suddenly the streets are jammed with vendors of lanterns, oil lamps, small colourful sand bags and sieves to make patterns on the ground. We are just watching, slightly feeling that soon something very similar is awaiting us in December, around Christmas time, but for the moment we stay aside, only observing.
The yoga institute organised a celebration before closing down, called Patanjali Jayanti, to commemorate the birth of Sage Patanjali, the father of yoga. All the students were invited (and strongly advised) to participate at this event, and so we went. Everybody was wearing his best festive clothes, the locals usually traditional Indian dresses, like sarees and salwar kameez with extra amount of gold accessories.
The yoga practice hall was nicely decorated, and we could listen to the myth of how Patanjali came to this world, a few words by Geeta Iyengar, the daughter of BKS Iyengar, then to some quotes by Guruji and finally an interpretation of some text of how to be pious in this world and how to live well.
The whole ceremony was very touching especially because on this day, the Institute received the first national award for the outstanding contribution for promotion and development of Yoga. The award was given to Prashant Iyengar, son of BKS Iyengar, by the Prime Minister of India, in Delhi. On this occasion, Geeta Iyengar gave a speech in which she emphasised that the award goes not only to the Institute, but to all of the people who participate in the spreading of Iyengar yoga, us disciples and teachers of Iyengar yoga included. I was really honoured to have had the possibility to participate in such a beautiful event.