Diwali is one festival that our whole country comes together to celebrate. As soon as Dussehra or Vijaya dashmi is over, the preparations for Diwali begin. People go shopping for new clothes, whitewash and clean houses and decorate places of worship, business and living. All places, from the smallest hut in the smallest village to the largest mansion in the metros, are decked up with lights, and why not? Diwali, after all, is the festival of lights.
Celebrated to commemorate the homecoming of Lord Rama after vanquishing Ravana, Diwali is as old as the epic Ramayana itself. Most people go home during Diwali despite the busy schedules as these holidays are probably the only time of the year to meet up with family and friends.
A lot of people though can use this time to travel! Festival time is possibly the best time to visit places and Diwali is a time when the climate of India is at its best. There are sales everywhere and most heritage sites are decorated beautifully. Our capital Delhi is one city that promises a festive and bright Diwali. The sight of fireworks can be enjoyed from India Gate, Ram Leela Ground or JawaharLal Nehru Stadium. This is the time to stay away from the shopping malls and roam the streets of the many flea markets of Delhi — if not to shop, to experience the hustle bustle and the lights. Also, it’s a good time to sample fresh sweets being made especially for the festivities.
Varanasi is one of the holiest cities in the world and an ancient place of pilgrimage. Throughout the year, this city attracts people from all over the world who want to get a feel of Hinduism and its rites and rituals. Though Varanasi celebrates God every day, on Diwali, it is decked up with lights of every colour imaginable. The ghats that are believed to wash away sins of the past are lit up with the tiny flames of thousands of diyas that devotees set afloat on the river. This is a sight which has no comparison. The evening aarti with the diyas on the ghats is a unique way to celebrate Diwali.
Amritsar’s Golden Temple literally glows in the light of the diyas floating in its pools. Diwali, which is short for Deepawali, literally means ‘rows of diyas’, hence these little earthen lamps are the forerunners of the fairy lights that illuminate the buildings now. It’s not only the lights of Amritsar but also the smell of the delicious Punjabi food that pulls tourists to this wonderful city on the occasion of Diwali. So if you are a foodie, Amritsar is the place to be. while the Golden Temple is the most peaceful place to see the colourful fireworks from.
Another unique Diwali celebration happens in Kolkata where instead of the Ganesh and Lakshmi Puja, Goddess Kali is worshipped. Designs of rangoli (soft, brightly coloured powder) adorn the thresholds of homes and shops. These intricate designs have now become a tradition for Diwali all over India but was essentially a way to welcome Goddess Kali into our homes. The ceremony starts at midnight and the best places to see it is the aptly-named Kalighat temple or the Dakshineswar temple. A grand celebration also happens at the nearby town of Barasat where the huge gates of the city are decorated with lights.
Jaipur, which is known as the ‘Pink City’, is converted into a city of all colours as houses are adorned with lamps and lights. A delight for the senses, the diyas are available in thousands of varieties. All shapes and sizes are available, including shapes of animals and birds. Jaipur is a city knows for its handicrafts and Diwali is the opportune time to stock up on these from one of the many markets in the city that are decorated like brides. There is a competition at this time for the best decorated market and in this race, Jaipur becomes probably one of the best decorated cities in the country.
No matter where you are in India, each home celebrates Diwali in its own special way, each one as beautiful as the other. But whatever you plan to do this Diwali just be conscious about the environment and your own personal safety and the rest is all fun and celebrations!