Diwali, commonly known as the festival of lights, is one of the biggest celebrations in India, marking the triumph of good over evil. Hindus, Sikhs and Jains all join in with the five day long festivities that unfold across the country.
The word Diwali means “rows of lighted lamps”, so it’s no wonder that incredible light displays are a common tradition. Many will mark the festival by lighting earthenware oil lamps, known as diyas, to help Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, find her way into their homes. Other practices include grand firework shows to honour the end of the 14-year exile of Lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, and his wife Sita from the Kingdom of Avodhya.
The dates of Diwali differ every year, as they are calculated by the position of the moon in the Hindu lunar calendar. This year, it falls on Wednesday 11th November. If you’re lucky enough to be in India during this time, here are just a few places that will be celebrating this exciting festival in grand style.
Diwali in Goa
Diwali starts up in Goa on the day of Naraka Chaturdashi, with residents hanging decorations and lanterns outside their home.
One fantastic spectacle that definitely should not be missed here is the Narakasura ritual. To celebrate Lord Krishna’s destruction of the demon Narakasura, the people of Goa compete to create the biggest and scariest paper effigy of Narakasura, filled with grass and firecrackers. They are then burned at dawn, before the main day of Diwali begins.
Gambling is also a popular pastime in Goa during Diwali. With a selection of impressive casinos across the region, the festival presents the ideal opportunity to show off your skills on the game tables. Alternatively, the breath-taking beaches are the perfect place to unwind and watch the colourful firework displays.
Diwali in Jaipur
Arguably no other city in India rivals Jaipur for their stunning light displays during Diwali.
The ‘pink city’ comes to life with the beautiful glow of colourful lights and lamps, adorned across the streets and home fronts. The local markets also get the same treatment, decked out in thousands of earthen lamps that illuminate the clothes and craft stalls there. The most impressively decorated market stall receives a prize, so you can be sure they won’t hold back when it comes to bright and eye-catching displays.
Jaipur isn’t just a festive feast for the eyes, but for all your other senses as well. Musicians bellow out music on the streets, while the delicious sweets sold here will tantalise your taste buds.
Diwali in Amritsar
Amritsar is renowned for the magical atmosphere that can be felt there every year.
Here, Diwali coincides with the Sikh festival, Bandi Chhor Divas, which celebrates Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, who freed himself and Hindu kings from Jahangir’s prison and returned to the Golden Temple back in 1619. It therefore comes as no surprise that the Golden Temple is one of the main focuses of the festivities.
On the Diwali evening, the temple is extravagantly draped in bright diyas, making it a truly enchanting sight. The lake reflects the light, glittering from the countless candles and lamps, while the night sky fills with vibrant firework explosions. Amritsar is sure to offer an experience that will stay with you forever.
Diwali in Kolkata
Known as the ‘city of joy’, Kolkata offers visitors all the excitement of Diwali in its own unique way.
The festival of light coincides with Kali Puja, where people make offerings to the Hindu goddess Kali. During the festival, gifts are given to the goddess, who is associated with creative power. These include the usual flowers, sweets, meats and fish, as well as the slightly more unusual offering of a buffalo calf.
Although Kolkata celebrates Diwali in its own style, they still follow suite when it comes to the visual spectacles. Burning candles, diyas and colourful lights flood the city streets the day before the Puja, in anticipation of the midnight celebrations. Dazzling firework displays form part of the festivities as well.
Diwali in Varanasi
Famed as one of the holiest cities in the entire country, the beautiful settings of Varanasi will not disappoint during Diwali.
The night is filled with a constant stream of fireworks and firecrackers, while the steps leading down to the river, also known as ghats, are given a mesmerising makeover with the light from thousands of diyas. For the best and most immersive experience, make sure you book a hotel near the Ganges riverside, to enjoy uninterrupted views of the fireworks.
You should also make sure not to miss out on the Special Ganga Aarti during Diwali. This traditional spiritual performance takes place every evening in Varanasi in honour of the the Goddess Ganga. It involves lit diyas being circled clockwise around Hindu priests, accompanied by songs of praise, before being floated down the river with candles and flowers. Under the bright glow of the illuminated ghats during Diwali, this performance is completely captivating.