The most important festival for all Hindus is Diwali, also known as the festival of lights. In anticipation of this festive event, people light up their homes and cities weeks in advance. Diwali is a revered tradition that brings people together to pray, feast and celebrate life. Diwali is seen as the beginning of a new year, or a fresh start, so many use the occasion to clean house, forget old problems, and start anew with a clean slate. Travel to India to celebrate Diwali with locals and immerse your self in the tradition of the festival of lights. Here is what you need to know before you travel to India to experience this festival.
What is Diwali and Why Is It Celebrated?
According to Hindu tradition, Diwali celebrates the return of Lord Ram home after fourteen years of exile in the forests. His wife, Sita, had been abducted by the ten-headed King Ravana, and Lord Ram defeated him, resulting in his exile. Ramayana is an epic poem worth reading to understand the entirety of the legend. The date of the return home marks the beginning of a new year in the Hindu calendar and forms the basis for the yearly festival. It is called the festival of lights because it represents the victory of light over darkness. Good triumphs over evil and the Hindus light up the night sky in a joyful celebration of hope.
When and Where is the Diwali Festival?
The actual day of Diwali varies slightly each calendar year. It falls on the full moon between the end of October and the beginning of November. In 2018, Diwali takes place on November 7th. The festival is celebrated by Hindus all over the country of India, but festivals are larger and more organized in certain places. No matter where you might happen to be during this joyous celebration, you are highly likely to find brightly lit festivities. Below we will detail some of the recommended sites to visit when planning a trip to India to celebrate Diwali.
How is Diwali Celebrated?
Day one of the festival of Diwali is Dhanteras. This is the day for Indians to clean and decorate their homes in preparation for the festivities. Many also buy new clothes in anticipation. The second day is a continuation of the preparation activities, with small rituals called pujas incorporated. The front doors of homes are decorated with Rangolis. These are art patterns made of colored powders and serve as a welcome to guests.
The third day of celebration is Diwali, the most important day of the event. Families and friends come together and exchange gifts. They also light diyas, which are small oil lamps. Later in the evening, the streets fill with revelers who light fireworks and crackers to celebrate the end of the year.
The following day, the first day of the new year is the fourth day of the festival of lights. Friends and families visit each other to exchange sweets and sometimes gifts. The fifth and last day of the festival, Bhai Dooj, is when sisters cook for their brothers, put red dots called teekas on their foreheads, and accept blessings.
Where Are the Best Places to Experience a Diwali Festival?
The travel site India Someday recommends that visitors who wish to experience Diwali plan a homestay visit in North India. This kind of travel lets one stay with a Hindu family to experience Diwali as an insider and not a tourist. Varanasi is a good choice for visitors because you can enjoy fireworks by the famed Ganges River. Jaipur is another exciting option. The markets are large and completely lit up, providing a sensory delight and ample wonderful photography moments. Goa is the place to go if you enjoy gambling and more of a “wild” experience. The special local tradition of burning effigies of the demon Narakasura will make for a great travel story when you return home. Amritsar hosts a famous Diwali celebration at the Golden Temple. As you can see, many cities in North India offer a variety of ways to experience the festival of lights.
So, will you be traveling to this amazing event this year? To make the most of your trip to India, you might also consider a spiritual getaway to India’s French colony.