Visiting India during Diwali—The festival of lights
Diwali festivities mark the beginning of a new year in the Hindu calendar in India. The festival goes on for a period of five days, celebrating the return of Lord Ram (King of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh) from his fourteen years of exile in the forests after defeating the ten headed King of Lanka (modern day Sri Lanka) Ravana who had abducted his wife Sita. Hanuman (a monkey God) and Laxman (Ram’s younger brother) are other important characters in this legend of Ramayana who stood by Ram, Sita and righteousness. It is called the festival of lights because it symbolizes the victory of good over evil and is celebrated with oil lamps (diyas), strings of colourful lights and fireworks. It is also the transition into winter season. The first of the five days is Dhanteras, the third is Diwali and the fourth is New Years day followed by Bhai Dooj. Merchants believe that it is the time the Godess of Wealth – Laxmi, comes home.
When and which parts of India celebrate Diwali?
The day of Diwali is the full moon in October – November. Diwali is celebrated by Hindu’s all over the country and in almost all states. You won’t find much Diwali spirit in Kerala though, where they celebrate Onam instead and have fewer Laxmi-worshipping merchants. Diwali 2015 is on November 11th and in 2016, it is on October 30th.
How is Diwali celebrated?
On Dhanteras, the tradition is to buy gold. Diwali day is the day of Puja (prayer rituals), lighting clay lamps (diyas) and placing them all over the house and lighting fireworks. Rangoli’s, designs traced in coloured powder and flowers, grace the threshold to welcome visitors. It is the time of the year for new clothes and spring cleaning. Gambling on card game sessions and drinking parties are also common during Diwali season. Relatives and friends visit each other on New Year’s Day with gifts and sweets. The fifth day is called ‘Bhai Dooj’ (the second day of the New Year, dedicated to brothers) when sisters cook for their brothers, put ‘teekas’ (vermillion) on their foreheads, take their blessings and bond.
Best places to celebrate Diwali in India
A home stay in North India would be the ideal way to experience Diwali in India. You can go to Varanasi and watch the amazing aarti and let off fireworks by the river Ganga. Jaipur’s markets are all lit up and an absolute visual delight during Diwali. Goa has a crazy Diwali gambling scene and a special tradition of burning effigies of the demon Narakasura. Amritsar, although essentially Sikh, is known for its Diwali celebrations, especially at the Golden Temple. Shoppers can expect great deals at malls and markets.
Diwali Safety Information
Diyas and firecrackers are all over the place, so be careful with of clothes (especially girls wearing ‘dupattas’ or Indian scarves) catching fire. It’s also a good idea to protect your hearing with ear plugs during Diwali, especially if your ears are sensitive. Some crackers are extremely loud, and sound more like explosions. The noise can be very damaging to hearing. There’s also a lot of smoke in the air which may make breathing difficult. Don’t keep your face too close while lighting fireworks and make a run for it on time once you light them. Children must be supervised! We hope you have a safe and Happy Diwali!