Experiencing Diwali In India
If we had to pick two festivals that you must definitely experience in India, it would have to be either the festival of colours – Holi (in March) or Diwali (October or November). Both these festivals are a sight to behold, and joyous Indians in the mood to celebrate are super fun. So if you are travelling in India during Diwali, go for it as festivals are the best way to experience a place and learn about its culture. This blog will tell you all about experiencing Diwali in India and celebrating the festival of lights!
Travelling in India during Diwali will give you an insight into India’s rich cultural heritage and help you understand age-old traditions. During this time, streets and homes are all lit up with lanterns and candles for the celebration of this Hindu festival. Experiencing Diwali in India is certainly surreal.
Diwali dates in 2020 – November 14th, in 2021 – November 4th, in 2022 – October 24th. Do note, three to four days before and after are all festive, so you have a week-long window to witness or partake in the festivities.
Different types of lanterns hang in windows around Diwali (Photo Credit – Kenkrevarun)
Diwali in India- An Overview
Diwali in India is as important to the Indians as Christmas celebrations in the West. Common traditions include buying new clothes and redecorating houses, lighting butter lamps, exchanging gifts, eating together as a family and bursting firecrackers. The primary purpose of these traditions is to start afresh with the belief of good emerging victorious over all evil.
As a traveller, especially if you are anywhere in North India, you will certainly feel the festive vibe! Indians are friendly and curious people. Don’t be surprised if you are invited to someone’s house to join in the family celebrations.
If you intend on travelling to India during Diwali, here’s everything you need to know about the festival of Diwali. If experiencing Diwali in India is on your wishlist (something we highly recommend), plan your trip with us now, so you can properly experience the grandeur of the festival of lights.
Partake in the Diwali Puja, and see if you can spot the Elephant God Ganpati (Photo Credit – Ian Brown)
Why do we celebrate Diwali?
Diwali marks the beginning of a new year in the Hindu calendar in India. It celebrates the return of Lord Ram after fourteen years of exile. During this period, he also defeated the ten-headed King Ravana who had abducted his wife Sita. Hanuman (the Monkey God) and Laxman (Ram’s younger brother) are other important characters in the Ramayana, an ancient epic about Ram, Sita and righteousness.
It symbolises the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and hope over despair. Hindus light up their homes, they adorn the entrance with lamps or candles, and colourful mandalas made using coloured powder. This is why it is also known as the festival of lights. In order to show gratitude to the lord, all assets like cars, offices, jewellery are worshipped at this time.
Clay lamps or diyas are lit to illuminate homes during the festival of Diwali (Photo Credit – Manoj Kumar Kasirajan)
Where and when is Diwali celebrated?
Diwali is celebrated on the day of the full moon, around the end of October and beginning of November. The celebrations are for five days with Diwali being the third and the most important day.
Most regions across the country celebrate this Hindu festival. Diwali celebrations in North and Central India are extremely different as compared to the festivities in South India. The religious significance of Diwali also differs depending on each state. The most popular significance continues to be based on the legend of Ramayana. But in South India, Diwali is celebrated to commemorate the conquering of the Asura Naraka and in the honour of Lord Krishna.
Celebrations in North India take place with great fervour – colours, lights, chaos, fireworks, loud gatherings and noise. In Southern India, on the other hand, celebrations are quite subtle even though the traditions are more or less the same. If you ask us, you must be in North India during Diwali.
Check out our route suggestions for North India to find out how to plan your trip around the festival.
Make sure you eat Jalebi, which is a famous deep fried Diwali sweet (Photo Credit – Zera Li)
How is Diwali celebrated?
Each of the days of this five-day festival have a different significance, with its own set of rituals and traditions followed by fireworks at night time. Knowing this isn’t a must, but will help you get a better understanding of it when experiencing Diwali in India.
The celebrations start on Day 1 with Dhanteras. On this auspicious day, Indians clean and decorate their houses and prepare for the festival. They also go out and buy new clothes. Stores have all kind of discounts in order to attract more buyers. The second day is also used for preparations and to mark the beginning of this auspicious festival, certain rituals are also performed. The entrance of people’s homes are adorned with Rangolis – art patterns made of coloured powder and flowers, to welcome their guests for Diwali.
Families and friends come together, exchange gifts and light oil lamps on the third day and the most important day – Diwali. Later at night, people go out onto the streets and light fireworks to bring in the new year.
The day after, new year’s day, relatives and friends visit each other and exchange sweets and gifts. ‘Bhai Dooj’ (the second day of the new year is dedicated to brothers), this is the last and the fifth day of this celebration. This is when sisters cook for their brothers, put ‘teekas’ (red dots) on their foreheads and take their blessings. We recommend all 5 days when experiencing Diwali while on your travels.
Beautiful combinations of diyas and flowers adorn houses (Photo Credit – Nithin P John)
What are the best places to celebrate Diwali in India?
If you’re travelling to India during Diwali, we will always accommodate you in North India during the festivities. A homestay can be a great experience to celebrate Diwali with a family but they get booked in advance. Some homestays only prefer to host friends and family. Do not worry, hotels have Diwali celebrations too, you cannot escape the Diwali spirit irrespective of where you stay.
In terms of destinations, any place in Rajasthan is great for Diwali. You will see lots of festivities and firecrackers in bigger cities like Mumbai and New Delhi. Towns like Agra, Orchha and Khajuraho located in the state of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are great for Diwali.
You can go to Varanasi and watch the amazing aarti and the mesmerising fireworks by the Ganges River. Varanasi also celebrates the festival of Dev Deepawali – the Diwali of the Lords. This celebration takes place 15 days after Diwali. It is believed that the Lords come down to Earth to take a dip in the holy waters of Ganga and all the 84 ghats are lit with oil lamps for their welcome. This is a sight worth witnessing as along with celebrations, multiple rituals take place as well.
Jaipur markets are completely lit up and are an absolute visual delight during Diwali. Goa has a special tradition of burning effigies of the demon Narakasura. Though Amritsar has a majority Sikh population, it is worth witnessing the celebrations at the Golden Temple. It doesn’t necessarily matter where in North India you celebrate, just make sure to not travel on the day of Diwali to really experience the Diwali festival to the fullest. Get in touch with us for recommendations for accommodation to experience this festival at it’s best.
Diwali celebrations in Varanasi are a breathtaking sight to witness
Safety TIPS FOR EXPERIENCING DIWALI IN INDIA
Diyas and firecrackers are everywhere, so be careful with your clothes catching fire (especially girls wearing ‘dupattas’ or ‘Indian scarves’). If your ears are sensitive, we suggest taking earplugs as some firecrackers are extremely loud and can sound more like explosions. There can also be a lot of smoke in the air. Don’t keep your face too close when lighting fireworks and rush to a safe distance once lit. We highly recommended that you constantly supervise children to avoid any accidents.
Burning of firecrackers during the festival can lead to air pollution especially in big cities like Delhi. In order to steer clear of any infection, it is best that you wear a mask to avoid inhaling this air. Celebrating Diwali in India in smaller cities like Rishikesh and Jaipur guarantees an authentic cultural experience. Smaller towns, continue to celebrate Diwali in accordance with ancient traditions. The ideal way to understand the rich history and culture of India, we highly recommend celebrating this festival in such towns.
If you have a respiratory condition, please let us know in advance so we can make sure you avoid cities with very high levels of air pollution.
Firecrackers are fun, as long as you maintain safety (Photo Credit – Madhukar Kumar)
Travelling in India during Diwali
If you’re travelling to India during Diwali (the festival of lights), make sure you book inter-city commute and accommodation well in advance – train tickets, hotel bookings and guides become harder and more expensive to book as the festival approaches. Most people make a booking well in advance for accommodation in major tourist cities. However, the most difficult thing to procure is train tickets, as people travel all over India to visit their loved ones.
Travel with India Someday to truly experience Diwali in the best way possible
For more information, visit our blog post on the must-experience festivals in India. Alternatively, feel free to contact us for more information about experiencing the festival of lights. If the dates that suit your convenience are nowhere close to this festival, get in touch with us. We’ll help you plan a trip that allows you to experience other popular festivals while still experiencing the vibrant culture of this subcontinent.
Don’t know how to incorporate the Diwali festival into your India travel plans? Afraid it’s too late to plan for Diwali? We’ll make it possible, don’t worry. Plan Your Trip with us now!
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