City Faith – Hanukkah Candles, Paharganj
The Temple memories.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s the light of Hanukkah, the weeklong Jewish festival that enters its penultimate day this cold evening.
The Delhi Walla spots the customary candles of Hanukkah in Main Bazaar, a market in the hotel district of Paharganj. The candles are mounted on the menorah. The traditional nine-branched Jewish candle-stand is placed just across the road from Vishal Hotel.
Hanukkah commemorates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BC. It is rare to see the public face of this festival in Delhi. After all, the city has only two dozen Jews, only one synagogue—it is near Khan Market, and only one Jewish graveyard, next to the synagogue. But there are also two Chabad Houses, the popular Jewish community centers spread across the world. One is located here in Paharganj, largely patronized by travellers from Israel, and the other is further south in Vasant Vihar, said to be frequented by foreign diplomats.
As the aforementioned Hanukkah candles in Main Bazaar go unnoticed by the busy passers-by, a pavement vendor of handbags puts up his stand in front of the menorah and hides its view.
Hanukkah, however, is on view elsewhere in Paharganj. There are Hanukkah candles in Yes Sir Guest House, and also in Hotel Arjun. One unlit menorah is placed outside Raza Tea Stall. The Shelton hotel offers the most mesmerising sight. The reception desk has Hanukkah candles placed in front of Lord Ganesha.
On the last day of Hanukkah, the Jewish Delhiwallas will mark the end of the festival with the traditional meal of sufganiyot (doughnuts) and latkes (potato pancake). The rest of us can always come to Paharganj to see the final day’s Hanukkah flames.