• Features: The biggest and most important festival in India
  • Opening Times: 23 October 2014, 11 November 2015
  • Best Time to Visit: Diwali
  • Duration: 1 week
  • Travelled By: Auto rickshaw
  • Cost: Free
  • Address: Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
  • Type: Event

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Diwali or Dipawali, the Festival of Lights, is the biggest and most important Hindu festival in India. It usually falls between late October and early November. While it is celebrated all over India with pomp and show, Jaipur, Kolkata and Delhi have the biggest and most colourful celebrations. This is the best time to visit India as the cities are at its most colourful, and the atmosphere is filled with joy, happiness and merriment.

Diwali in India: Our Experience


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Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is the biggest and most important festival in India. An ancient Hindu festival, it is celebrated around late October to early November every year. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. In many parts of India, the festival of Diwali marks the start of a new Hindu year.

There are several religious schools of Hindu philosophy linked to the celebration of Diwali. Many Hindus see Diwali as the celebration of the return of the hero Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana from exile, according to the ancient Hindu epic, the Ramayana. Others see Diwali as marking the return of the Pandavas after twelve years of exile, in another ancient Hindu epic, the Mahabharata.

The photo above shows a scene from Ramayana, where Rama, Sita and Lakshmana are returning from exile, and are escorted by Hanuman, a Hindu god and ardent devotee of Rama. I found this scene on a poster outside a jewellery store in Jaipur during Diwali.

While Diwali is celebrated everywhere in India, there are three prominent places in India that have the biggest and most colourful celebrations for Diwali – Jaipur, Kolkata (Calcutta) and Delhi. If you can make it to one of these cities during Diwali, you will see India at its best.



Celebrating Diwali in Jaipur

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In my opinion, the best place in India to celebrate Diwali is Jaipur. We arrived in Jaipur a day before Diwali, and did a walking tour of the Old City of Jaipur on Diwali day.

There is no better time than during Diwali to see Jaipur at its best. Markets are over flowing with Diwali items for sale, and people are out shopping for Diwali or celebrating the festival with family and friends. The atmosphere is electric and joyous.

Above is a picture of one of the street vendors selling clay idols and other items for Diwali. There were numerous street vendors in the Old City selling everything needed for the festival of Diwali and Lakshmi puja.


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In Jaipur, many Hindus believe Diwali is linked to the celebration of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and wife of god Vishnu.

While the main festival of Diwali is celebrated on one night only, the festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a week, and in some places, such as Jaipur, even continue for a month. The main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month, Kartik.

Some of the preparations for Diwali include Hindus cleaning, renovating and decorating their homes. As part of Lakshmi puja, people place sugarcane sticks around their house for wealth, happiness and prosperity, as it is the favourite food of the goddess, Lakshmi.

In the photo above, people have stopped to buy sugarcane sticks at the side of a street in the Old City of Jaipur to place around their homes.


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A large part of the preparations for Diwali include flowers. People buy flowers mainly to use in the puja to the goddess, Lakshmi, but also to decorate their houses, as well as for the women to wear in their hair as decoration.

Above is a photo of one of the many shops in the Old City of Jaipur selling a variety of flowers on Diwali day.


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On the night of Diwali, people dress up in new clothes, light up diyas (oil lamps and candles) both inside and outside their homes, and participate in family puja (prayers) to goddess Lakshmi. After puja, the family has a feast which includes mithai (sweets) and an exchange of gifts between family members and friends.

Above is a photo of a beautiful Indian woman, dressed in a gorgeous red sari, placing lighted diyas outside the house.


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Mithai or Indian sweets is a big part of the celebrations during Diwali. Not only is mithai eaten during the feast on Diwali day, big boxes of them are given as gifts to family and friends as a gesture of love and goodwill.

Laddus is the most popular mithai that is eaten as well as gifted during Diwali. It is a type of Indian sweet, like a round yellow ball, made of wheat flour, sugar and chick pea flour. Jalebi or amriti is another popular Indian sweet during Diwali.

While we walked around the streets of Old Jaipur, we saw several shops selling mithai for Diwali. The photo above shows the sweets at one of the shops – laddus, jalebis and amritis in huge quantities.


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Being the Festival of Lights, everything in India is light up. The buildings are decorated with colourful lights. Even the streets are lit up, draped with decorative lights in wonderful colours.

Even the outside of our hotel was decorated with colourful lights. However, the most attractive buildings in Jaipur seemed to be the jewellery shops, which were richly decorated with lights in all shapes and colours.


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Fireworks is a big part of Diwali, and is celebrated by everyone in India, including non-Hindus. It is a tradition to light fireworks with family and friends. People mainly step on to the street and light fireworks outside their houses.

Fireworks begin even before the main night of Diwali as people start preparing for the festival. They continue up to a month later as festivities go on for a long time in India. For several weeks after Diwali, we continued to hear fireworks every night while we were in Rajasthan.

In the photo above are several friends playing with fuljharis (sparklers) on Diwali night.


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For now, playing with fireworks is still legal in India. Several shops are set up before Diwali to sell fireworks, and anyone can buy any amount they want.

The fireworks people play with range from harmless light spectacles, such as fuljharis (sparklers), chakras (fire wheels) and fountain fireworks, to the more dangerous fireworks, such as rockets, crackers and bombs.


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I grew up in India playing fireworks with friends every Diwali. Unfortunately, being able to purchase or play with fireworks is banned in Australia. So, being in India during Diwali, we had to take advantage of the situation and light some fireworks ourselves.

Armed with fuljharis, chakras, fountain fireworks and rockets, we took to the street in front of our hotel to have some fun during Diwali. We were joined by neighbours from other buildings who wanted to join in on the action. It was a fun night, until we sent a rocket flying into the opposite building. Lucky for us, there was no one there so we didn’t get into trouble.



Celebrating Diwali in Kolkata

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Kolkata (Calcutta) is another city where Diwali is celebrated with a lot of pomp and ceremony.

Here, the deity Kali is worshipped and the festival is called Kali Puja. It is a big celebration that takes place at the same time as Diwali. Several puja pandals (pagodas) are constructed to house life-size idols and perform puja (prayers).

I grew up in Kolkata and it is the second largest celebration in the city after Durga puja. People dress up in their best and head out to the streets to celebrate both Diwali and Kali puja with their family and friends. There are several food stalls set up on the streets, and people eat and light fireworks to celebrate the festival.

The major attraction here during Diwali and Kali puja is the puja pandals. Each para (neighbourhood) has their own puja pandal, and each para competes to win the most beautiful pandal for Kali puja. It is an occassion for people to go pandal hopping as each pandal is decorated with a unique theme.



Celebrating Diwali in Delhi

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Another popular city to celebrate Diwali with a lot of pomp and show is Delhi. Being the capital of India, it is a big city with a very big population.

There are several Diwali melas and fairs, providing some heavy-duty shopping, lots of food stalls on the streets, The fireworks in Delhi are spectacular as people spend a lot of money on firecrackers. Also, the buildings and markets are lit up with beautiful decorations which makes the city look stunning during Diwali. The streets usually drowned in darkness at night come alive with colorful lighting on Diwali in Delhi.

In the photo are people lighting candles outside a Sikh Gurudwara or temple in Delhi.


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