In the past, I have mentioned numerous reasons to visit India. But it seems as if I have forgotten to mention Diwali. Thanks to the Indian Diaspora, Diwali is being celebrated around the world and people all over the globe are getting to know about this amazing Indian festival. But why not come to India to witness this amazing festival – the place where it all started.
Diwali is India’s most celebrated festivals. It cuts across religious lines. The reason why we call it the “festival of lights” is because, we Indians light clay lamps (called diyas) around the house. It’s certainly a lot of fun and excuse to buy new clothes and jewellery.
Diwali is celebrated in the first week of November. It marks the start of the Hindu New Year. Incidentally, it coincides with Guy Fawkes (Bon Fire Night) in the UK. It’s now even celebrated in the White House.
It is mainly the festival of Lakhsmi, the goddess of wealth. Yep, we do have a god entirely dedicated to wealth. It is said that those who worship the Goddess Lakshmi attains large amounts of wealth (it’s obvious that one has to work for it and pray to the goddess at the same time). The “diyas” or lamps are lit around the house mainly outside the house to help Lakshmi find her way into people’s homes.
It is said that you must remain in the house just in case she does come and if she finds you’re not there then you will not get her blessings. So you can see how important this festival is for all Indians. It is also celebrated because Lord Ram and his wife Sita came back to his kingdom after 14 years of exile.
Sikhs also celebrate Diwali because it is on this day, that Guru Hargobind arrived in Amritsar after being released from prison in 1619.
Diwali also has a very special significance in the Jain religion. It is said that Lord Mahavira, the last of the Jain Tirthankar attained Nirvana on this day at Pawapuri in Bihar.
Perhaps you can make a trip next time to India to witness this amazing festival of lights next year. Just make sure you check the dates, it varies from the end of October to the first week of November depending on the moon’s cycle. Mind you, if you are a person who hates noise, then this festival is not for you. But if you are one of those who love fire crackers, you’ll love the festival of Diwali.
The top 5 Diwali destinations in India will be:
None other than the national capital of India. On Diwali day, you will find that the streets are buzzing with people doing their shopping for sweets and fireworks. You will find “rangolis” everywhere including the small lanes to celebrate Diwali. Some good locations when I lived in Delhi was usual places such as India Gate area, Ram Leela ground and some places in Old Delhi particularly Chandni Chowk. But mind you, it does get very crowded and the smoke from the fireworks can be very intense. Some hotels in Delhi have their own programmes for their guests. It might be a good idea to confirm with them beforehand. In addition, the Karol Bagh market is always very beautifully decorated.
Amritsar – Punjab
The Golden Temple at holy city of Amritsar is draped with thousands of lights and is a sight not to miss. They have the most amazing fireworks.
Sivakasi – Tamil Nadu
This small town in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu makes 70% of the fireworks used by India either at weddings or other functions is made here. They display their best firework systems on Diwali day. Sivakasi is situated 70 km south of Madurai town in Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu.
Jaipur - Rajasthan
Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan and also known as the Pink City is one of the best destinations to be during Diwali. The whole city is lit with light and has an amazing atmosphere and is globally renowned for its excellent fireworks display.
Varanasi - Uttar Pradesh
Varanasi also known as Banaras or Kashi situated on the banks of the Ganges (Ganga) in Uttar Pradesh and where I spent large part of my childhood is one of the holiest places for Hindus. Although, I don’t live in Varanasi any more, I still remember the Diwali days when I used to go to the ghats (banks of River Ganges) for aarti. I can confirm that even the gods descend on the ghats at Varanasi on Diwali day – such is the atmosphere.
Even though these are some of the top places to be during Diwali, the real Diwali is celebrated in the ordinary homes of the Indian people that include the pujas, rangolis, the singing, the home made sweets, the blessings etc.