THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 10: It’s the “Diwali of the gods” today in India, and on this auspicious day known as Kartik Poornima, both Hindus and Jains work toward salvation (spellings of this holiday vary). Hindu tradition tells of demons, an epithet of god Shiva and the single arrow that destroyed the demon’s cities; it’s believed that once Shiva defeated the demon, the other gods rejoiced and pronounced the day as a “festival of illuminations.” Hence, lanterns are offered to priests on Kartik Poornima; devotees elaborately light temples; citizens brighten their own homes with lanterns and candles; and many even place lights on boats that are floated down rivers, so that any creature that sees their lights might attain salvation. (Wikipedia has details.) Jains focus on salvation by visiting Palitana, a famous Jain pilgrimage site, and journeying up the hills to worship at a temple at the top.
On this particular day, Hindus believe a bath in the Ganges River at Varanasi is the most auspicious activity possible. In temples, food is offered to deities and any form of violence—even including the cutting of fruits, flowers or hair—is prohibited. (Learn more about localized customs from the Times of India.) Approximately 200,000 people and 25,000 camels gather at Puskhar for the annual Kartik Poornima Pushkar Fair on this day each year, so that a ritual bath can be taken and the god Brahma can be worshipped. The Pushkar Fair is Asia’s largest camel fair.