Also known as the “Festival of Lights,” Diwali is the largest festival celebration in India. It’s a celebration that lasts for 5 days and commemorates the triumph of good over evil. It is also a time when families celebrate their prosperity and unity. Locals and tourists celebrate together during this season in many ways, making each year as memorable as the next.
The Festival of Lights happens in either October or November each year. This is determined by the lunar cycle, and falls on the 15th day of Kartik, which is the most sacred month of the Hindu lunar calendar.
In 2018, Diwali will be on November 7. In South India, however, it will be observed a day earlier, on November 6.
In 2019, Diwali will be on October 27.
In 2020, Diwali will be on November 14.
What is Diwali about?
Some Hindus celebrate Diwali to commemorate the time when the deities Rama and Sita returned to Ayodhya from their 14-year exile. In celebration, villagers use oil lamps to light the otherwise dark paths. Others consider the festival to be about the birth of Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth and prosperity. It is marked as the first day of a 5-day-long celebration.
What is the significance of the celebration?
Today, the importance of Diwali has become more nuanced across different regions and traditions of Hinduism. Yet for all their differences, one thing that remains in common is the theme of light triumphing over darkness, knowledge overcoming ignorance, and good winning over evil.
To this end, people try to keep their homes clean and well lit as they prepare and host a feast in order to mark the start of a new beginning.
What different rituals are involved?
Diwali starts in the middle of the new moon, when the night is darkest. This is recognized by the lighting of oil lamps called diyas as well as lanterns and candles everywhere. With this, the five-day celebration begins and is divided into Dhanteras, Naraka Chaturdasi, Lakshmi Puja, Padwa, Balipratipada, Bhai Duj, and Bhaiya Dooji.
Day 1 – Dhanteras: This is called the festival of wealth, where metals (except iron) are traded.
Day 2 – Naraka Chaturdasi: This day is characterized by early morning rituals that involve sandalwood, oil, and flowers.
Day 3 – Lakshmi Puja: Considered the main day of Diwali, this is when people offer prayers to Lakshmi.
Day 4 – Padwa, Balipratipada: On this day, men give presents to their wives as a celebration of the bond between husband and wife.
Day 5 – Bhai Duj, Bhaiya Dooji: On the final day, prayers are offered as a way to celebrate the bonds between siblings.
How do most people celebrate Diwali?
Families often prepare for Diwali by cleaning, renovating, and even decorating their homes. They usually draw colorful patterns on the floor, which are known as rangoli. On the days of the celebration, the people dress in new clothes, sport henna tattoos, light candles, and offer prayers. Of course, everything is accompanied with feasts composed of delicious Indian food and sweets.
Sweets are particularly a point of interest during Diwali. Families often purchase and prepare a wide selection of sweets that come in all shapes, colors, sizes, and flavors. Some of the more popular ones include barfi, gulab jamun, ladoo, and jalebi. As for the feasts, they are usually a display of the family’s culinary abilities and are filled with all kinds of traditional dishes.
Diwali’s economic importance
Beyond culture, Diwali also has a great economic significance to those who celebrate it. It is considered the time when shopping in India is at its peak, with shoppers mainly going for clothes, gifts, and even gold. Because Diwali is also a celebration of the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, people consider it favorable to make huge investments during this time. One year, it was estimated that Indians spent a total of $3.9 billion observing Diwali.
One very important commodity during Diwali is gold. Before Diwali, people purchase lots of gold, believing that it attracts wealth to their homes. It has been observed that the demand for gold jewelry increases by about 20% to 30% during this time.
Ways you can celebrate Diwali:
- Celebrate with an Indian family: You’ll find lots of things to see outdoors during Diwali, but consider yourself lucky if you get to observe the celebration within an Indian family’s home. You’ll get to immerse yourself in the culture and become part of the celebration and even wear the traditional clothes. Of course, don’t forget to get the hosts something as well – you can’t go wrong with a box of sweets or chocolates!
- Check out the illuminated markets: One of the best places to see how well-lit cities can be during Diwali is Jaipur. Entire markets and establishments are literally illuminated in a friendly competition between markets, with the government footing the electricity bill. The dazzling display of lights will remind you of something you’d see in Las Vegas.
- Gambling in Goa: In Goa, they celebrate Diwali by burning an effigy of a demon on the second day. Gambling is also very popular in the area, so you can look forward to visiting some of the casinos if that’s your thing.
- Watch fireworks in Varanasi: This city is often busy with all kinds of activities, but it gets even crazier during Diwali, as people come to witness the breathtaking fireworks that light up the night sky above the Ganges. Tip: To get the best view, try to book a room in a riverside hotel so that you can have your own private view when all the fireworks start.
- Shopping in Delhi: Now’s probably the best time to splurge and go on a shopping spree. It will take you an entire day to scour the fairs and markets all over Delhi. Afterwards, enjoy yourself at the carnival rides in the Sundar Nagar neighborhood.
Excited about going to India yet? Make sure you plan your trip so that you’re just in time to enjoy Diwali!