Visiting India during Diwali—The festival of lights
Diwali is the most important festival for all Hindus. It is called the festival of lights as people light up their houses, shops and streets for the festival days and weeks before the big day. It brings families and friends together to pray, feast, celebrate and relax – a little bit like Christmas in the west actually. It is also considered the beginning of a new year so people clean their houses, invest in new things and forget old problems to start fresh and new into a new period. This article explains why, when and where Diwali is celebrated. If you want to experience the festival of lights in India plan your trip with us now.
WHY IS DIWALI CELEBRATED?
Diwali festivities mark the beginning of a new year in the Hindu calendar in India. It celebrates the return of Lord Ram from his fourteen years of exile in the forests after defeating 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 this legend of Ramayana who stood by Ram, Sita and righteousness. It is called the festival of lights because it symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and hope over despair. Hindus basically light up the night on this joyful day.
When and which parts of India celebrate Diwali?
The day of Diwali is the full moon in October – November. The celebrations are for five days with Diwali being the third and most important day. In 2017 Diwali will be on 19th of October, on 2018 on the 7th of November and on 2019 on 27th of October. To find out what else to look forward to around this time of the year check out our blog articles on weather in October and November.
Diwali is celebrated by Hindus 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. Check out our route suggestions for north India to find out how to plan your trip around the festival.
How is Diwali celebrated?
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 – a great day for the Indian retail industry! The second day is also used for preparations but also already for small pujas (rituals). Rangolis, art patterns made od coloured powder and flours are being placed on front doors to welcome guests.
The third day is Diwali and the most important day where families and friends come together, exchange gifts and lit up diyas, small oil lamps that last for the whole night. At night people go out on the streets and starts the fireworks and crackers to celebrate New Years Eve. Relatives and friends visit each other on the next day, 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’ (red dots) on their foreheads and 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. It doesn’t necessarily matter where in North India you celebrate, just make sure to not travel on the day of Diwali and stay with a Hindu family and not at some big hotel to really experience a profound fest.
Diwali Safety Information & TRAVEL ISSUES AROUND THE HOLIDAY
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!
If you’re travelling to India during the Diwali season, make sure you book well in advance – train tickets, hotel bookings, guides, everything becomes harder to get and more expensive at this time. Hotels and homestays in major tourist destinations are often booked out months in advance. But the most difficult thing are train tickets as people all over India travel to see their loved ones.
Don’t know how to incorporate Diwali 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!