Diwali, rightfully christened ‘The Festival of Lights,’ is celebrated with great gusto in India. Festivities last over several days, with each day signifying something special. Lighting lamps, preparing and distributing sweets, exchanging gifts and awaiting new beginnings is the essence of Diwali!
“Diwali” is Sanskrit word for ‘row of lights.’ Various ancient tales of Indian mythology narrate the origin of this festival.
Lord Rama – the all-powerful prince of Ayodhya – defeated the demon King Ravana in an epic battle. This day of Ravana’s defeat is celebrated as the festival of Dussehra all over India.
The day which marks Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya, after the legendary battle with Ravana, has been celebrated as Diwali since centuries. It is believed that thousands of lamps were lit to welcome Lord Rama back to Ayodhya by the subjects of this legendary city. This tradition has continued till date and Diwali has become synonymous with lighting of lamps.
The birth of Goddess Lakshmi and Her marriage to Lord Narayana are also related to the origin of Diwali.
Another section of mythology describes how the Demon named Narkasura was defeated by Lord Krishna on the day of Diwali.
Diwali commemorates the silver lining of dark clouds, the victory of joy over sadness and positivity over despair.
Be part of these celebrations which uphold the small joys of life!
Where is Diwali Celebrated?
Indian mythology reveals Ayodhya to be the birthplace of Diwali celebrations. But the festival is celebrated lavishly in every nook and cranny of India. It is also celebrated in Fiji islands, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Nepal, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Suriname and Singapore. Recently, the day of Diwali was declared as an official holiday in U.S.A as well.
From the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir to Kerala in the south; from Gujarat in western India to Orissa in the east, there are barely any villages and towns that remain untouched by the fervor of Diwali. Celebrations may differ everywhere, but the enthusiasm and love people have for this festival remains unaltered. This depicts how far and wide, the fame of Diwali has spread!!
So what are the celebrations during Diwali like? What do people do to celebrate the special day? Why such fervor around the festival?
Festivities to Watch For:
Diwali celebrations are not limited to a single day; they continue for a span of 4-5 days. People begin preparing for the festivities weeks in advance with indescribable zest!
People clean and decorate their houses, cook mouthwatering delicacies, buy new clothes and jewelry among other things to celebrate this joyous occasion.
Keep reading to find out more about the exciting festivities celebrated during Diwali:
The arrival of Dhanteras is something like adding tea leaves to a pot of boiling water. Like the flavor and color of water changes to an aromatic beautiful concoction, Dhanteras causes the simmering festive emotions in people’s hearts to overflow.
Dhanteras, also known as Dhanatrayodashi, marks the first day of Diwali. It is celebrated on the 13th day of the Hindu month of Kartik. Women, men and children drape themselves in silk, jewels and other finery as they welcome family and friends to celebrate the Festival of Lights. People consider this an auspicious day and invest in buying gold and silver jewelery. This is believed to bring prosperity and wealth.
Dhanteras is also celebrated in Nepal with great pomp and joy. This day is also dubbed as Dhanvantari Trayodashi to honor Dhanvantari, the God of Ayurveda. This day is celebrated each year as ‘World Ayurveda Day.’
Dhanatrayodashi ushers in new hope, new wealth, prosperity and joy for one and all. Words will fall short to explain the joyous aura of Dhanteras. Experience the spirit of this day first hand, by visiting India this Diwali!
‘Narak’ means hell in Indian languages. Chaturdashi is the 14th day of any month in accordance to Hindu calendar. Narak Chaturdashi is the 2nd day of the 5 day long happy and dazzling festival of Diwali. A legend in Hindu mythology describes about a demon named Narkasura, because of whom Narak Chaturdashi came to be celebrated.
Narkasura abducted 16,000 young girls with an intent of marrying them all and winning their kingdoms. Lord Krishna rescued the distraught girls after defeating the evil Narkasura. The dying demon was granted a boon, according to which, anyone who will take an auspicious bath on this day of every year will not suffer in the fires of hell. Since then the day is celebrated each year as Narak Chaturdashi.
People wake up before sun rise, bathe and get dressed in new clothes. Having a bath with ubtan is the highlight of this day. Ubtan is a paste prepared by mixing a special powder with milk. It is said to purify and cleanse one’s body completely. A special pooja is performed by many on this day.
These traditional and religious activities are followed by a hearty breakfast of special ‘faral’ dishes. These include Chakli, Chiwda, Laadoo, Karanji and other mouth watering delicacies. Enjoying this meal with family and friends is one of the most enjoyable experiences of Diwali. Children and adults alike, make merry throughout the day by bursting crackers and
enjoying each other’s company.
Get in touch with your friends and relatives in India for a homely experience of celebrating the Festival of Lights in the most fun way ever!!!
Lakshmi Pooja is a religious event of great importance. It is organized to worship Goddess Lakshmi, who is hailed as the Goddess of wealth by Hindus. Men, women and children alike, dress in their finest in preparation for Lakshmi Poojan.
Wealth is a symbolic gesture during this Pooja and every individual worships what he/she considers to be wealth. Students worship their books on this day. Entrepreneurs are known to worship their account ledgers in a bid to appease the Goddess of wealth. Lakshmi Pooja is a traditional ritual and has to be performed in accordance with ancient scriptures.
Goddess Saraswati (Goddess of Intellect) and Lord Ganesh (God of Protection), are also worshiped during this Pooja. Several East Indian states like Assam and Orissa, worship Goddess Kali, the destroyer of evil.
One of the most awaited celebrations of Diwali is Bhaubeej. This day celebrates the bond of selfless love between a brother and his sister. Females as young as school going girls and elderly women alike are equally excited about Bhaubeej.
Traditionally, a brother visits his sister, laden with gifts and delicacies for her. He is pampered with all the attention and love the sister can spare on this special day.
Aukshan is a special ceremony where the sister waves a lighted lamp in front of her brother in a circular motion. This signifies offering respect to the brother and earning his love.
Special moments shared between a brother and sister are bound to make your eyes moist with emotions! Celebrate this special day with your brother, amid the hustle and bustle of Diwali in India!
Rangoli is a beautiful traditional design made on the floor using specially prepared powder and flower petals. These designs adorn the doorsteps of houses during Diwali.
From a basic and simple decoration the size of a small tile, to intricate patterns stretching a few square feet, rangoli designs come in all shapes and sizes. These are drawn just by hand or even using stencils of specific designs. Rangoli designs are made using powders of various colors. Rangoli is often decorated with oil lamps placed in a manner that accentuates its beauty.
Many schools and community centers organize rangoli design competitions during Diwali and the best design is awarded with accolades.
Online tutorials are available on YouTube for beginners who are learning rangoli designs and also experts who are looking to master more complex patterns.
Witness some of the most spectacular rangoli designs this year, as you ring in Diwali with family and friends in India!
Firecrackers are to Diwali what Santa is to Christmas. They are the most exciting part of Diwali awaited by children and elders alike.
Come Diwali, and skies are abuzz with colorful showers from various fireworks! The neighborhood lights up as the lamps lit by people and firecrackers combine to bathe all surroundings in bright light!
A variety of firecrackers are sold at almost every utility store before Diwali. Stocks of firecrackers sell like hot cakes, as children line up to make their purchase enthusiastically.
Firecrackers are fun, but at the same time should be used cautiously. Strict parental guidance is advised for children under 12 years of age if they wish to burst firecrackers. If due precaution is taken to avoid any mishap, firecrackers are a harmless way of entertainment during Diwali.
“Festivals can be celebrated without food” said nobody ever! Like every other celebration, Diwali celebrations are made more enjoyable when accompanied by delicacies prepared specially for the occasion.
Traditional Diwali food is known as ‘Faral’ in western parts of India. Though recipes vary from one region to the other, some delicacies are common across all cultures in India.
A list of some specialty food items prepared during Diwali is mentioned below:
- Besan Laddoo – These soft sweet balls prepared using yellow gram flour, clarified butter and sugar, are enjoyed by one and all.
- Chakli – A crispy, savory snacks coiled into a circle makes for perfect tea time accompaniment as well.
- Chivda – A savory dish made from deep fried or roasted rice flakes garnished with cashew nuts, dried coconut shavings, and peanuts, can be prepared in a jiffy.
- Gujiya – A sweet snack resembling a fried dumpling, stuffed with a filling of coconut and jaggery, is an all-time favorite during Diwali. It is also known as Karanji in some parts of India.
Is your Mouth watering already??
Site Seeing Options:
A satellite image of the Earth taken during Diwali was doing rounds a few years back on social media. Indian territory dazzles and glows like the brightest star in that image, courtesy Diwali decorations. This goes to show how enthusiastically Diwali is celebrated all over the country.
From north to south and from east to west there are several sightseeing options promising to satisfy every tourist’s thirst.
Given below are descriptions of some destinations known for their unique Diwali celebrations:
This holy city is one of the most visited places in India. The magic of Diwali attracts even more people to this place than ever.
Ganga Aarti is a way of appeasing River Ganga which is considered holy. The magnificence of this nightly ritual is infinitely enhanced, as priests chant holy prayers amid the dazzling lights and decorations of Diwali. Throngs of tourists crowd the banks of River Ganga as She is offered respect and gratitude.
One of tourist hubs in the State of Punjab is the Golden temple. This Sikh temple is visited by a mass of devotees and tourists every year. Diwali brings out the best of its beauty as Golden temple gets decorated lavishly.
Harmandir Sahib (as it is also known) shines in all glory as it is bathed in the lights of Diwali. The mesmerizing beauty of Golden temple is reminiscent of a bride decked up for her wedding.
People of all religious faiths are welcome to visit the shrine and partake into delicious food here.
Diwali signifies much more to Bengalis in addition to bursting crackers, decorating homes with flowers and preparing a special feast. A lot of hustle and bustle can be seen on the streets of Kolkata during Diwali.
Kali Pooja is one of the important events performed on Dhanteras. Lavish decoration, rows of lit clay lamps made by hand, flowers and rangoli outside every house are a common site during Diwali. Many people observe a strict fast on the day of Kali Pooja.
Kali Pooja is conducted at night to honor Maa Kali, the fierce and protective mother of all Her devotees. Family and friends are welcomed to a lavish feast in several households.
Stalls in the small by-lanes of Kolkata selling gift articles do brisk business during festivities. Shopping forms an indispensable part during Diwali as all shops display their best products and services by the window.
Apart from Kolkata, Kali Pooja is also celebrated with great pomp in Tripura, Assam and Bihar.
The City of Puri in Odisha, holds a unique ritual every year during Diwali. Badabadua Daka, a ritual believed to invoke souls of one’s departed ancestors, is practiced in Puri during Diwali. It takes up an entire day and is taken very seriously.
Many families follow this annual ritual to seek blessings of their dead ancestors. A bundle of jute sticks is set on fire and held by each member of the family. The men proceed to recite prayers to appease their ancestors. This ritual is believed to get rid of any darkness or obstacles which a person may be facing.
Puri is richly decorated during Diwali and gets every tourist to succumb to her gracious charm.
The state known for its royal gentry, leaves no stone unturned to celebrate Diwali in
the most lavish manner possible. Tourists visiting Rajasthan make a beeline for the various royal forts and palaces located here.
Lanterns and intricately designed oil lamps illuminate the existing beauty of these structures, making them more appealing than ever. Flowers and rangoli (colored powder) are used to create decorative designs at the entrance of these buildings.
The ethereal beauty of Rajasthan during Diwali is bound to leave everyone awestruck!!
Known more for its beaches, cruise parties, and Christmas bash, Goa comes as a surprise entry in the list of ‘must visit’ destinations during Diwali. This tiny Indian state celebrates Diwali with great fervor.
People await the day of Narak Chaturdashi which is celebrated in a rather unique manner in Goa. Effigies of Narkasura, the demon prince who ruled the land now known as Goa, are built and burnt. Contests are held at some places in Goa, where the group which manages to build the biggest and nastiest effigy of the demon is rewarded handsomely.
Goan folk clean and decorate their houses prior to Narak Chaturdashi. This is considered to be symbolic of cleansing one’s aura and surroundings of all that is impure and unholy. New clothes, jewelery and other items are purchased to celebrate the upcoming festivities.
Visit this pristine beach destination and enjoy Diwali with a Goan twist!
Venkateshwara temple, the famous temple of Lord Vishnu in Andhra Pradesh is worth a visit during Diwali. Strings of light bulbs, rows of oil lamps and lanterns adorn the white exteriors of the temple. Since devotees visit the temple in lesser numbers during festive season, Diwali is one of the best times to be there.
Lesser crowd makes it easier to absorb the temple’s serene and beautiful environs. Apart from the daily religious rituals, some special rituals are conducted to welcome Diwali. The idol of Lord Vishnu is decorated in jewels and silk on the day of Diwali. A royal procession is organized later in the day to allow devotees to seek blessings from the Lord.
To enjoy these and many more sightseeing options, book your tickets to India soon!!!! Do you want to know the travel options for the same? Read on:
Options for Traveling in India:
India is a vast country occupying an enormous land mass. Ample transport options are available for traveling from international destinations and even within India. Depending on the travel distance, terrain and climatic conditions, following transport options are available:
Due to presence of several international airports across several Indian cities, there is good connectivity to many big cities all over the globe. Regular flights from America, Africa, Australia and other countries in Asia facilitate easy travel for foreign tourists.
Domestic air travel too is very convenient due to several flight options provided by government as well as private airlines. Once you reach the nearest airport to your chosen destination, there are options of traveling by road or rail to continue your remaining journey.
Traveling by road in India is rather hassle-free due to availability of a number of options. Bus services initiated by tourism department of India as well as by private business ventures have created a vast network of routes across several Indian cities. There is nothing quite as soothing as taking a bus journey and sitting by the window seat, admiring the sceneries outside.
For those who like privacy while traveling, there are options of hiring individual cabs via Uber and similar other cab services. Self-driven rental car services have also started springing up in several cities of India. For those who get an adrenaline rush from driving, this is a rather enjoyable option!
If your destination is close by to any railway station, reschedule that road trip and hop onto a train that takes you where you need to go!
Traveling by train offers an opportunity to observe some of the most splendid terrains and landscapes that India has to offer. If befriending new people is your thing, a train journey will provide you ample of opportunity to do so.
There are countless rail routes created all over India due to availability of regular train services. Take your pick and have a journey of your lifetime!
Diwali is a festival where hope is reincarnated in the form of abundant blessings and joy. It signifies leaving unpleasantness of the past behind and moving forward with new vigor. Come celebrate the festival of lights, joy and hope in India!