Diwali and its peculiar tradition

Diwali Lights

Diwali Lights

Last week was Diwali - the festival of lights and the beginning of  Hindu New Year. Diwali is to India what Christmas is to the US. Its the time of year when Indians buy new clothes, send gifts, decorate their houses and share good times with family and friends with lots and lots of food (read sweets). Buildings  and streets are lit with special lights and fireworks adorn the skies.

There is a peculiar tradition that marks all Diwali parties, especially in north and west India - playing teen patti (three cards, a version of three card poker). I am not quite sure of the history behind this tradition, but gambling seems to exist in the Hindu culture for eons. After all, it was the root cause of the epic battle of Mahabharat where king Yudhister gambles away not only his entire kingdom but also his wife Draupadi.

Regardless of the vices of gambling,  friends and family get together the days leading up to Diwali, and  play a friendly game of teen patti into the wee hours of the morning. Every year I invite my friends over for a Diwali party and I bring out the cards and poker chips to keep alive the tradition here in San Francisco. The game can get convoluted as the dealer can create different variations of the game - wild card(s), bust card(s), using combinations of cards as wild, etc.  Unlike poker, this is a very lively and interactive game.

So next year if you are invited to a Diwali party, take along your appetite as well as some cash. If you indeed want to celebrate Diwali the traditional way, a pack of cards and poker chips should on the menu.

Happy New Year!