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Diwali in India
October 14, 2017, 5:39 pm
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It is often said that India, a country that prides itself on its unity in diversity, is at its best come festival season. This stands true especially during Diwali, a festival that holds different meanings to different regions and religions, but is celebrated with a unified spirit and enthusiasm that marks the triumph of good over evil, and the overcoming of darkness with light. In spite of the broadly accepted theme that underlies one of India’s favorite festivals; different parts of the country celebrate the festival with their own individual unique flair. To be involved in the festivities is to truly understand and enjoy what the 'Festival of Light' means to the people that make up this wonderfully diverse nation.

Whether it is to experience an Indian Diwali for the first time, or to celebrate the traditional festival with a new approach, here are a few suggestions of cities in India that shine their brightest during the festive season.

New Delhi:

Shopping is a very popular activity during Diwali season and families spare little to no expense when splurging for themselves and loved ones on the occasion. Diwali is considered to be a very auspicious time of the year for major purchases, and shopping is encouraged with the idea of getting rid of the old and welcoming novelty and change. The markets in New Delhi are a promising destination for shoppers, with pop up ‘melas’ or fairs taking over the streets, filled with food, ornaments, clothes and other festive merchandise. Artists take advantage of the crowds of locals and visitors who fill the streets, and perform adaptations of traditional religious stories such as Ram Lila on temporary stages or as street plays. Visitors and locals also enjoy the breathtaking fireworks display that light up the night skies during the festival, making New Delhi a city worth visiting at Diwali time.

Agra:

A mere train ride away from New Delhi is Agra, another popular destination during Diwali, as the backdrop of lights and color add to the beauty of historic sites like the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and more. Those visiting Agra should also try visiting the Mahadev Temple to witness the traditional rituals of Diwali performed there.

Amritsar:

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, the holiest shrine, is decked up in a grand glowing display during Diwali. The Sikh community celebrates Diwali as 'Bandi Chhor Divas' or the 'Day of Liberation' in commemoration of the release of their sixth holy Guru, Hargobind Sahib, in 1611 from unjust imprisonment by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. It is also significant to note that the foundation stone of the Golden Temple was laid on Diwali Day in 1588, and has since been an important religious place of worship for the Sikh community, who gather on this occasion to drape the temple with shimmering lights. As mesmerizing as the temple looks, the reflection of the diyas on the water by the temple makes the whole experience transcending and one to consider witnessing during Diwali.

 

Varanasi:

Varanasi, or Banares, in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, is a favored tourist spot all throughout the year, owing to the deep spirituality associated with the city, which lies on the banks of the River Ganga.

Varanasi bustles with people during the festive season; all gathered to chant hymns and light up the banks of the Ganga. For the best experience, visitors should choose to stay at one of the many riverside hotels, where they can have a great view of the fabulous display of fireworks over the river.

Other highlights include lining the ghats, which are the series of steps leading to the body of water, with illuminated candles and then participating in the special Ganga Aarti (prayer) while people light diyas and set them out to float down the river, a spectacular display only Varanasi is known for. Dev Deepavali, celebrated two weeks after Diwali, on the full moon night of the Hindu month of Kartik, is an even bigger occasion for the local population, who mark the event by carrying artistic creation of Hindu deities in a procession through the streets and by lining the ghats with more than a million clay lamps.

Jaipur:

Rich in culture and tradition and also considered a shopper’s paradise, Jaipur, the famed Pink City in Rajasthan, is a popular destination during Diwali, as the colorful city invites you in with a glorious display of light and splendor.

Decorations are not limited to houses and buildings, but extend to the vast markets the city is known for. Every year, Diwali encourages a friendly competition among vendors who put up their best displays in keeping with the spirit of the season.  Johari Bazaar, one of the many markets, is referred to as ‘The Strip’ during this time of the year as it is believed to resemble the extravagant lights of the Las Vegas Strip in the USA. Jaipur is also known for the sweets and savory delicacies that are relished during the season of Diwali. Popular treats like Mawa Kachori, Gond ke Laddoo, Sohan Papadi and Besan Barfi fill the markets, making it an ideal destination for foodies as well.

 

Kolkata:

Unlike most other parts of the country that worship Goddess Lakshmi during the festival of Diwali, West Bengal pays respect to Goddess Kali on this day. Attending a traditional Puja in one of the many Kali Temples in Kolkata, like Kalighat, Belur Math and Dakshineswar, instills a deep sense of devotion among attendees and is a truly authentic and pious experience. Magnificently decorated idols of the vibrant Goddess Kali are also put on display across the city for people to visit.

 

Goa:

Goa celebrates Diwali by focusing on the destruction of the Demon Narakasura by Lord Krishna. Popular competitions are held in every village and city to see who can make the biggest, scariest effigy of the demon, which are then set on fire at the crack of dawn on Narakasura Chaturdashi, the day before the main day of Diwali. Bursting firecrackers on the beach well into the late hours of the night, along with the uninterrupted atmosphere of dance and music makes Goa a beloved destination among tourists and locals alike.

Chennai:

The capital city of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu celebrates Diwali on Narka Chaturdashi, which falls on the day before the festival is observed by the north Indian states. The local inhabitants of the city are strict followers of the traditions and rituals individualistic to their culture and religion, and do so by rising early in the day and participating in spiritual activities and preparation of south Indian feasts and sweets, which are then shared among family and friends.

Chennai is known for their traditional silks and is home to many popular textile houses, which are undoubtedly filled during the festive season by the young and old keen on shining their brightest during Diwali. The large number of temples in this city makes it a popular destination for those willing to start their days with religious proceedings which are then followed by delicious feasts and concluded with the bursting of firecrackers and joyous festivities.

 

 

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