Diwali is the biggest festival in India, a celebration of the triumph of light over dark, good over evil. The word Diwali means “rows of lighted lamps” and it is also called the Festival of Light. Everyone lights small diyas (lamps) and fireworks to help guide Lord Rama home from exile.
Diwali is basically the equivalent of Christmas — a big, festive celebration that brings families together and is the highlight of the holiday season. There are five days of festivities, each marked with different pujas (prayers) and rituals.
What you need to know
Like most festivals in India, Diwali’s date changes from year to year as it’s based on the lunar cycle and not a fixed date. This year (2015) it’s November 11. So check the date in advance, and plan accordingly. Diwali ties up traffic like nobody’s business and makes travel challenging.
Top tip: Find a place to celebrate and stay put for the five days of Diwali.
How to celebrate
Diwali is largely a family celebration, much like Christmas. Stay with Indian friends or book into a homestay or small, family-run guesthouse so you can experience Diwali with a family.
Where to celebrate
Diwali (also known as Deepavali) is celebrated throughout India, though there are regional differences. Cities like Delhi, Varanasi, Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, and Mumbai go all out on Diwali, and the effect is dazzling … to the point of ear-splitting. I’ve been in Delhi twice for Diwali and found the noise and the pollution caused from all the fireworks to be overwhelming. Next time, I’m going to try a smaller city!