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Friday, October 13, 2017

Diwali: It's the Festival of Lights in India

| 12 Comments
Diwali is coming. It is the perfect occasion to indulge in sweets again and remember the longing memories. In India, Diwali, the Festival of Lights is a joyful celebration, 20 days after Dussehra. The name of the festival is roughly translated into the row of lamps.

The festival gets celebrated in different parts of India in different ways. There is no fixed date for Diwali. Rather, Diwali depends on the moon. The festival is always celebrated on the 20th day after the new moon in autumn, in October or November.



Why is Diwali celebrated in India?


It is also the New Year festival at the end of the autumn season and the beginning of the new financial year. The worship of Lakshmi occupies a central place in the rituals.



What is the purpose of making Rangoli?


In these days intricate and colorful rangolis get drawn on the floor in front of the home. It is a very ancient tradition, usually handed down from mother to daughter. It was the first form of pictorial art on earth as per Chitra Lakshana, an ancient treatise on painting. People believe that bad spirits get trapped in the intricate designs and can not enter home.

After tracing the contours, the expert hands drop a color line to fill the shapes. Women then create shades and intense chromatic effects. Clay lamps in the center or the edges with their trembling flames enhances the beauty of the designs.



How is Diwali celebrated?


The first day is Dhanteras. "Dhan" means wealth and "teras" refers to the 13th day of a lunar fortnight in the calendar. In North India, people buy gold or silver items.

The second day is the Naraka Chaturdasi or Choti Diwali. In West Bengal, people worship goddess Kali, while demon effigies get burned in Goa.

The third day is the day of the new moon known as Amavasya. This darkest day of the month is the most significant day of the Diwali festival in North and West India. Lakshmi gets worshiped on this day, with a special puja performed at night.

In the mornings, people wear clean and festive clothes. They buy lush colorful floral garlands and decorate the doors with it. House shrines also get adorned. Good wishes and atmosphere of happiness are in full bloom. They then visit the neighbors with gifts, usually homemade sweets. In nearby temples, people pray to the gods.

In the evening hours, candles and oil lamps are lit everywhere, but now also with electric lights. People play music, sing, dance and eat together. Children burn firecrackers.

The fourth day has various meanings throughout India. In northern India, people do the Govardhan Puja. In Gujarat, it gets celebrated as the beginning of New Year. In Maharashtra, people perform Bali Puja to seek the blessing of king Bali.

The fifth day is the Bhai Dooj. Brothers and sisters gather and share food, to honor the bond between them.



Where to Celebrate Diwali in India?


Are you wondering where it is best to join the Diwali celebrations? Take a look at these Diwali destinations in India.

Varanasi


Varanasi attests to Diwali celebrations, with millions of lights and millions of people. People start the day with the Ganga Snan ritual. You can explore the bustling street markets that sell sweets and fireworks. On a sunset boat ride, you can soak in the sight of the lamps by the shore that illuminates the darkness. There is a spiritual aura borrowed from the songs and recitals on the river banks. The festivities culminate in noisy and colorful firecrackers that soar everywhere.

Amritsar


The city of the Golden Temple is a delight in Diwali. It coincides with the Sikh celebrations of Bandi Chhor Divas. Special kirtans echo through the city and the golden temple bathes in light. The Diyas reflect in the water of the huge sacred pool. It is a banquet for any photography enthusiast.

Jaipur and Udaipur


Jaipur, the pink capital city of Rajasthan, is a good place to spend the Diwali. Celebrations in Jaipur begin at Dhanteras, the first of the five-day Diwali celebrations. In the historic center, every street gets dedicated to a craft. There is the area of silverware, cloth sellers, shoes etc.

Each area competes to have the most beautiful decorations. The result is a fairytale city transformed into a color chest. Sights such as Fort Nahargarh offers lovely views after the dark. You can see stunning glimpses of the illuminated walled city. The city of Udaipur is also charming with endless photo opportunities. Its majestic lakes shine with reflections emitted by palace lights and fireworks. You can enjoy Marwari sweet delights and collect ethnic Rajasthani souvenirs.



Dev Deepawali in Varanasi


15 days after Diwali, Dev Deepawali is a unique festival held on the banks of the Ganga River in Varanasi. People say that on this day, the Gods come down to celebrate Diwali. All 84 ghats get cleaned and decorated with flowers, rangolis, and lamps. The river comes alive with flickering flames floated over the Ganges. The annual Ganga Mahotsav takes place three days before Dev Deepawali. It has cultural performances, crafts exhibitions and of course food.



What to eat during Diwali?


The shops get filled with a spectacular variety of sweets prepared for this festival. Kaju Katli, made with cashew nuts and often coated with a thin film of an edible silver leaf is most popular. In fact, if ever there is a time to experience the best sweets in India, it is during Diwali.

For those who want to prepare them at home, grind half a bowl of raw cashew nuts to a fine powder. Grease a frying pan with ghee. Mix half a cup of water and sugar until it dissolves. Put it in the pan and boil for a few minutes, over low heat until it has reduced and is sticky. Add the cashew nuts and mix well. Stir for four or five minutes, until they do not stick to the walls of the pan. Be careful not to burn it.

Remove from heat. With wet hands knead the mixture. Flatten it with a wet roller with a little water so that it does not glue the dough. Make a thin layer and cut it into pieces (the custom is to do it in the form of diamond shapes). It is also customary to glue edible silver leaves on one of their sides.
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12 comments:

  1. Diwali seems like a very interesting and colorful festival to witness. All those lights and fireworks make it especially intriguing. Joining festivities like this can really teach us the culture and tradition of a country or a city!

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  2. Oo that Kaju Katli sounds so yummy ! :) Looks like an incredible time, I love ringing in the New Year with a good celebration :)

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  3. Being from England, Diwali is celebrated the same way it is in India, the celebrations are immense but I can only imagine how much it's celebrated in India.

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  4. Great post! Thanks for all the info on Diwali - I was always under the assumption it was just a single day. It's great to hear the stories behind the entire celebration.

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  5. I would love to experience it. I hope it will be celebrated here in the Philippines too. Maybe yes! but not as popular as the holi Festival which I attended last time.

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  6. I've heard about the Diwali festival of lights, but never with the details you've included. Sure appreciate the explanations! I'll bet this is a wonderful time that brings many people together and strengthens them in their culture and beliefs.

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  7. Coming from South Africa, where there is a big Indian community, I have always been fascinated by Diwali. I would love to experience it in India one day. The golden temple at Amritsar sounds like a place I would like to go for the celebrations. And of course, to taste Kaju Katli will be obligatory.

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  8. Thank you so much for explaining Diwali in such detail. I've often been curious about the festival of lights. Varanasi sounds like the place I would like to celebrate it in! It sounds like that light turns everything into a magical scene.

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  9. I remember being in Agra for Diwali a few years ago and it was fascinating. I love finding out more about traditions and spending time with local people. We saw some scary homemade fireworks and quite a lot of activity in the street but it was fun.

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  10. Thanks for sharing so much information on festival of lights. Diwali is our favorite festival and we love celebrating it with our family. Indeed, we want to visit Amritsar, Varanasi, Udaipur on Diwali to see the decoration but really looks impossible. Hopefully someday.

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  11. Wow! Super informative post that made me have a greater understanding for a festival I already admired :)

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  12. I always love learning about different cultures and what is important to them! this was a great article! thank you!

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Kalyan is first a photographer and then an avid traveler based in India, who is always on the look out for unusual and off the track destinations. He is a freelance travel, food and lifestyle blogger and an influencer, sharing stories and experiences through photographs and words. More About Me »