In Maharashtra, alongside the traditional delights of sweets, firecrackers, and lights, a unique and cherished tradition thrives during Diwali: the 'Diwali Anks,' special magazines released for the festival, providing a literary treat for Marathi readers. This tradition harkens back to a simpler time when extended families gathered to celebrate Diwali, and both adults and children spent their vacations engrossed in various magazines covering a wide range of topics, including social issues, philosophy, health, humour, and more. Remarkably, even in this digital age, the tradition remains robust and continues to thrive. According to Ramesh Rathiwadekar, Founder of Akshardhara Book Gallery, the tradition has, in fact, grown with time.
Akshardhara Book Gallery, which hosts a special exhibition of 'Diwali Anks' every year, has more than 250 'Diwali Anks' available for sale this year. The first 'Diwali Ank,' released in 1903 by Masik Manoranjan, is also on display and available for purchase at the gallery, said Rathiwadekar. He mentioned, "We have a variety of 'Diwali Anks' covering topics like literature, mystery, films, and even those that would interest kids and women." He added, "The best-selling 'Diwali Anks' are in the literature category, followed by humour and women's interests."
When asked if the tradition is waning due to the younger generation's preference for screens over reading, Rathiwadekar emphasised that it's quite the opposite. "I have observed that young readers enjoy 'Diwali Anks' as they offer something different from regular magazines. While some may opt not to read, there are also families who have preserved the tradition of reading 'Diwali Anks,' passing it down from one generation to the next. There are children living in foreign countries who call us to courier 'Diwali Anks' to their parents at home, and they often order copies for themselves. Last year, we shipped 'Diwali Anks' to 14 countries," he explained.
Ashlesha Mahajan, an author who writes in several 'Diwali Anks,' highlighted the significant role these publications have played in shaping the careers of numerous authors and poets. "Apart from cultural hubs like Pune, Mumbai, Aurangabad, and Nagpur, 'Diwali Anks' are published from many other places where you would least expect. However, a shift has occurred in recent times, with advertisements taking precedence over content. While this approach may be commercially sound, it doesn't sit well with purists like me who value the traditional focus on literary content."
Prachi D, a content designer, fondly recalled the anticipation of getting her hands on the new 'Diwali Ank' during her childhood. "My friends and I used to plan who would buy which 'Diwali Ank' and then exchange them. The tradition still continues. The wide range of content, from articles, poems, recipes, short stories, and more, in the 'Diwali Anks' offers something for all age groups and is quite refreshing."
Anchal Bhujbal, a homemaker, expressed her anticipation for 'Diwali Anks,' stating, "Just as we eagerly await the festival of Diwali, we also await 'Diwali Anks.' During the festive season, it's an opportunity to read something special with your family, especially topics like fashion, food, and travel, which are of interest to women."
Meenakshi Katkar, a schoolteacher, has been reading 'Diwali Anks' for the past 30 years. "I find the long-format articles quite interesting, offering a welcome change from regular newspaper reading. I also enjoy reading the food recipes and experimenting during the Diwali vacation."