While India is a colourful country all year round, it dons a different veil during festive times. Diwali, a festival that is celebrated across the country regardless of caste, creed or religion, is a time of coming together and making merry. An occasion where homes are cleaned, beautiful lamps are used to decorate the house and families get together with friends and neighbours to celebrate together.
The origin of Diwali, while experts are unsure, is said to date back to the days when gods and goddesses walked the earth or numerically 2500 years ago. While in North India it is a celebration to mark the return of lord Rama, from the epic Ramayana, after 14 years of exile during which he fought and won a battle against the demons and the demon king, Ravana, in South India it is believed to be the day Krishna released 16000 women from an evil king. Stories associated with the celebration of this grand festival, as many as there may be, all point to the victory of good over evil or light over darkness.
Just as the diversity in the population of the country there is diversity in the way this festival is celebrated across the country. While you can choose to be in any corner of the country, here are our recommended places to be on this joyous occasion:
Varanasi: The spiritual city of Varanasi is a sea of lights during the festival of Diwali. Take a boat ride or sit by the Ghats to take in the happenings on this auspicious day. End the day by watching a superb display of firecrackers. Stay a little longer and you can get a glimpse of the festival of gods – Dev Deepavali which is a part of the Ganga Mahotsav Festival.
Amritsar: In Amritsar Diwali coincides with Bandi Chhor Divas – a festival that commemorates the return of Guru Hargobind Ji, the 6th Sikh Guru, from his imprisonment – making it an extravagant celebration. During this time special chants and kirtans reverberate across the town, couple that with the magical sight of the golden temple lit up, it is a Diwali treat for sure.
Udaipur: Imagine sitting by the lake watching the shimmering lights and diyas adorning every household. The centre of attraction is of course the Palace which looks like star studded. The serene Pichola Lake shimmers with the reflections of the colourful fireworks that take to the sky. Walk around the bazaar where musicians play folk songs and pick up beautiful lamps and other artifacts. Udaipur is a regal Diwali experience all the way!
Kolkata: Kolkata celebrates Kali Pooja on the same day as Diwali and this makes Diwali super special and a spectacle to behold. Numerous Pandals (a temporary fabricated structure) are set up across the city where the choicest of offerings, from Fish to meat to flowers to sweets, are made to the goddess Kali. Whether it is firecrackers or the bedazzling decoration, Kolkata bursts with vibrancy during Diwali.
Goa: While Goa has its share of fun beaches and a cool vibe, it comes alive with merriment during Diwali. It is during this time that you will find at the most unlikely corners life size effigies of the demon Narkasura in different avatars. The effigies are filled with firecrackers which are burnt in the wee hours of the morning. Diwali definitely brings out another side of Goa which must not be missed.