Most of us have heard about India’s festival of “Diwali” but what exactly is its significance and how do the 1.3 billion people around the world celebrate?
The word Diwali itself is derived from the Sanskrit word “deepvali” meaning “series of lighted lamps” and the festival of lights is everything you would imagine it to be and more. Celebrated once a year in autumn, it’s known to be the liveliest, brightest and the biggest holiday in India.
What is Diwali?
The festival of Diwali is used as a way to acknowledge several spiritual events, and most notably, celebrating the victory of light over darkness such as the return of the god Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana from their 14 years of exile.
The festival also marks the beginning of a new Hindu year in some parts of India and is celebrated by other faiths as well. During the festival, participants celebrate life, its enjoyment and a sense of goodness.
Visiting India during Diwali is a mesmerising experience – the country is illuminated with homes full of lights, colourful flowers and firecrackers filling the skies, said to be a way to express respect to the heavens and request peace, health, prosperity, wealth and knowledge.
The primary deity worshipped throughout the festival is the goddess Lakshmi, though each of the five days throughout the festival holds unique significance.
The first day (25 October 2019) is dedicated to celebrating prosperity and citizens clean and beautify their homes and purchase gold or metal kitchen utensils.
On the second day, they decorate their courtyards with Rangoli design patterns filled with coloured powders of sand. October 26th is known as Naraka Chaturdasi or Chhoti Diwali (small Diwali) and in Goa, demon figurines are burned in celebration of Goddess Kali and Lord Krishna destroying the demon Narakasura.
The most important day, 27 October 2019, signifies the new moon day and is the darkest day of the month during which Lakshmi (the goddess of prosperity) is worshipped with unique rituals in the evening, a delectable feast and an exchange of gifts.
The festivities continue by lighting lamps, bursting firecrackers and lighting bonfires to burn away any negative spirits. The sight is spectacular with millions of lights shining brightly on housetops, doors, windows, temples and across the entire continent.
Diwali also serves as an occasion to feast and you can expect to indulge in traditional delicacies, snacks and delectable sweets. Experience lavish vegetarian dishes with paneer, a type of fresh cheese widely used in Indian cuisine, samosas, pakoras and a large variety of desserts including the popular ladoo, jalebi, gulab, jamun and barfi. Indian desserts differ from those you typically find in other countries as they are considered heartier, using nuts or vegetables as a base along with sugar and milk – surely a treat for your taste buds.
Where else is it celebrated?
Diwali is celebrated by Hindu’s in countries all over the world; including Fiji, Guyana, Kenya, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago.
In Southern India, Malaysia and Singapore the festival is referred to Deepavali (deep – lamp, vali – array) and in Northern India, it is more commonly known as Diwali, but they are essentially the same celebration.
In all these countries, the celebration revolves around the triumph of good over evil, purity over impurity, light over darkness.
Diwali holds significance not only in Hinduism but also in Sikhism who celebrate the release of their sixth Guru Hargobind. To Sikhs, it is known as Bandi Chhor Divas. The Jains celebrate it as the day when Lord Mahaveer, the last Tirthankara, attained Nirvana or Moksha.
If this beautiful festival is on your clients wishlist (or your own!), Insight Vacations offers a remarkable itinerary taking travellers to timeless India and Nepal during the Diwali festival next year (beginning November 14th, 2020) on its new 12-day Classical India with Nepal journey. On the November 9, 2020 departure, guests will have the chance to dine and celebrate with a local family in Jaipur for an authentic cultural experience during Diwali.
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