One of the most famous festivals in India is Diwali, known as The Festival of Lights. In different ways and forms it is celebrated in many parts of the country but is celebrated in it’s best known way in regions that are populated by Hindus, for example you will find big celebrations in Delhi. We take a look at everything you need to know about the Diwali festival and how to best enjoy it.
1. WHAT IS IT?: Diwali is widely and aptly known as ‘the festival of lights’. In its most popular form it is celebrated amongst Hindus to celebrate the homecoming of Lord Rama after slaying Ravana. In essence, it the celebration of good over evil. Historically, the people of Ayodhya lit lamps to welcome Lord Rama and Lakshmana after their victory and this tradition is carried on by Hindus. Over centuries some changes have come about in the rituals. Oil lamps have been replaced to some extent by candles and lights, particularly in urban area. Firecrackers, which used to be a big part of the festival as recently as 15 years ago, have now become mostly obsolete. This was largely due to initiatives taken to boycott them due to their adverse environmental impact and practices of their manufacturers in employing child labour. But still, the simple and integral prayer ceremony is performed in every single Hindu home on Diwali.
2. WHEN IS IT?: The Diwali festival falls every year in November or sometimes in late October. Diwali is a two day festival. The first day, called ‘Chhoti Diwali’, is when a small prayer is performed at home. The following day is when all the festivities happen. Diwali is celebrated exactly 20 days after Dussehra and coincides with Amavasya (a no moon night). In 2010 Diwali falls on the 5th November and on the 26th October in 2011.
3. WHERE IS IT?: A Hindu family whether located in Delhi or Denver will celebrate Diwali in the best way possible. Markets, homes, hotels are all lit up beautifully. Diwali fetes of varying sizes spring up in every colony of Delhi, offering games, food, and amusement of many kinds. The fete of Old Delhi is particularly famous and a great experience for those who don’t mind crowds. The celebrations can be loud and noisy, but there are plenty of good places to watch the fireworks and join in.
4. SPECIAL TIP FOR VISITORS: Diwali, save visiting the fetes, is mostly a family festival. One of the best ways for outsiders to enjoy it, is by staying with relatives, friends or in a homestay. This allows guests to enjoy all the festivities first hand and even participate in their own little traditions. A visit to a temple with the family is also a moving experience.
5. THE LESSER KNOWN DIWALI: While the Diwali known commonly is the one celebrated by Hindus, the Jains also celebrate Diwali. Their celebration is to honour the day when their Saint Mahavir attained moksha. Most of the rituals are similar to Hindus. Home are lit up by families and a prayer is performed in the evening followed by a feast with relatives and sometimes friends. The only major difference is that the family goes to a local Jain temple in the morning and offers a ‘laddoo’ made entirely of sugar.
6. GAMBLING AND DIWALI: Gambling is illegal in most of India but in the weeks following up to Diwali everyone tries their luck at least a little. This is because Diwali is also the festival of Goddess Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth, and it is said that she is generous with her followers at this time. In fact, many homes don’t even lock their doors on Diwali as they believe Laxmi visits the house of her devout followers and should not find it locked. To take advantage of her generosity, game nights are very popular.
If you want to celebrate Diwali in a family homestay get in touch with us or leave us a comment and our reservations team will be happy to help you plan your celebrations.
Find out about the homestay experience and don't forget to check out our ideas on things to do in India or browse our India homestays.