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Visiting India during Diwali

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If you happen to visit India between mid-October and mid-November, chances are you will be dazzled by the sparkle of a thousand lights illuminating people’s homes on one moonless night marked as the festival of Diwali. The festival is indeed one of the biggest celebrated all across the country and one that brings with itself a feast for the senses wrapped around the traditional worship of the Hindu goddess of wealth.

Festival’s Origin

Diwali or Deepawali is a word that originates from the Sanskrit word Deep meaning an earthen lamp. Hindus believe that it was on this auspicious day that Lord Ram came back to his kingdom of Ayodhya after spending 14 years in exile. His return with his wife Sita, brother Lakshman and monkey god Hanuman was an occasion to rejoice for the whole country and that is why all homes were decorated with lit earthen lamps.

The tradition is still carried on each year and the day of diwali is celebrated as per the lunar calendar on a moonless night when in spite of the dark sky, homes and public places are flooded with lit earthen lamps, candles, decorative lanterns and strings of colored bulbs.

Different states of the country though have their different interpretations of the significance of the day and hence different ways to celebrate the occasion. Like, if you are in India’s eastern state West Bengal, the day is marked by worshipping the Goddess Kali. On the other hand in western states of Goa and Gujarat, it is believed that the day marks the triumph of Lord Krishna over demon king Narakasura. In southern India, the glitz and glamour associated with Diwali of the north are a bit subdued owing to their varied customs of celebrating the festival.

Day to pray to the Goddess of Wealth

Diwali for majority of Hindus is the day to worship Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Business houses offer prayer to the goddess and open new account books and legislatures on the next day of Diwali marking a new business year. Do not be surprised therefore if people wish you a happy new year along with their diwali wishes. At homes the Goddess is offered various sweets and savories and prayed to usher in joy and prosperity in everyone’s lives.

What to expect 

Diwali festival is more than anything else a time to be close to people you cherish the most in your lives. Sons and daughters make it a point to come back to their hometown and celebrate the festival with their loved ones. Families and friends get together and bond by burning firecrackers and enjoying a multitude of delicacies prepared for the occasion. For children of course it is the one time of the year when they can burn the loudest and most dazzling of firecrackers and not be reprimanded for the racket they make.

What you might find,

Floor Art – If you are travelling to the western states, especially Gujarat, you might find many women and young girls crouched over the verandah floor and creating magnificent designs called rangoli using dried colored powder on the floor. The designs are unique, colorful and make for great photo memories once you get back home. It is an activity anyone can participate in if you do not mind the messy hands. Children would love to spend hours with this interesting floor graffiti. The colors are easily washable and therefore hands and floors can be conveniently cleaned once the fun is over.

Shopper’s paradise – From sweet shops to saree shops, jewelry store to furniture showrooms, everyone has something enticing to sell on the days before Diwali. Just like Christmas time shopping, the best of deals are up for grabs in the shops and malls. It is also the best time to get the most exquisite of traditional wears and jewelry available. As people make it a point to gift at least a box of sweets to anyone and everyone during diwali, it surely is boom time for all the Indian sweet shops. If you have been invited by a local, do not therefore forget to carry at least a box of sweets/chocolates or a gift for the family. Also, do visit the local markets wherever you are – even if the shopaholic crowd is a dampener, this is the best time to witness some of the best Indian art, craft, and traditional merchandise on sale.

Fire Crackers – Diwali is another name for crackers for many in India, especially children. There are the popular varieties like the conical shaped anar or the wheel shaped chakari. There are also the loud bombs whose deafening noise can sometimes scare the strongest of souls. For the worst therefore do carry a pair of ear plugs to diffuse the constant noise. On the other hand if you do not mind bursting one or two crackers yourself, go ahead and have a blast. Precautions are necessary with children around though and ensure you read the safety instructions first and always burst the crackers out in the open.

Lights – It is one thing to see India any other time of the year and quite another to see it during Diwali night. Almost all of the country is lit up is the grandest and most lavish way. From a tiny shack to a multistory you will not find a single roof top without light. Go for a walk to see the illuminations and you might just feel – Christmas has arrived early.

Festival Food – Majority of Indians are vegetarian and the feast offered to the Goddess Lakshmi is vegetarian too therefore the Diwali snacks and savories comprise of many fried, steamed, and ghee (clarified butter) products that are strictly vegetarian but mouth watering creations. From sweet to spicy, hot, to tangy, this is really the best time to forget diets and indulge.

Travel woes – The festival season is the best time to rekindle forgotten relationships. And people here do exactly that around this time. When millions are going home to celebrate diwali it might get an elephantine task to book flights and trains during these days. So the most important tip for travelers is to plan ahead and book all hotels and flights WELL in advance.

Most tourist places are open to public as per schedule during the festival days. In fact they might be dolled up with an added string of lights.

Diwali time visit to India may shock some as it might be too much of light, sound and action to take in at once, especially if you have not experienced the country before. But if you let the initial apprehension pass, you will realize the core idea of the festival is the same as celebrating Christmas, or Halloween or Easter. It is to bond, love and share moments of happiness together with the people you love the most in the world. Be in India during Diwali and discover a whole new way to do just that.


Atula is a writer, traveler and a nature-lover. She is also mom to a boy who seems to have inherited all her creative genes. When Atula is not busy making up stories with her son, she writes for numerous magazines, websites and blogs. She is also working on her site on endangered species called indiasendangered.com.

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