If you google festivals to experience in India, more than likely you will find pictures primarily of the holiday Holi. Holi is the festival of love and colors and is celebrated during the spring. The festival’s main celebration is when you douse each other in water and throw colored powder at one another.
However, there is another holiday that is just as special and unique to the Hindu religion and India, Diwali. Diwali is the festival of lights that is celebrated in the late fall and is the biggest holiday in India. The festival usually falls in either late October or early November corresponding with the new moon.
There is no definite origin story for the celebration of Diwali. Every region in India has a different backstory for how the holiday began based on their own beliefs or traditions. However, all of the stories share in common the theme of good triumphing over evil or light over dark.
This five-day celebration’s most recognizable features are the diyas and colorful rangolis. Diyas are earthen oil lamps that are placed around the windows and doors of every home. They are also placed on the rangolis that sit outside the entrances. The name Diwali actually derives its meaning from the diyas.
The rangolis are made from different colored ground rice or sand and flowers poured into beautiful circular shapes with diyas scattered throughout. These colorful designs are placed outside of the home for good luck and to welcome the gods.
On the main night of Diwali, families come together to celebrate and let off small fireworks in the streets and alleyways outside of their homes. While this holiday is celebrated everywhere in India, it is in the smaller villages and towns that you can really experience the feeling of the festival.
Preparations are carried out for the five days, but really come together on the third day of the festival. This night is the darkest night of the festival and the diyas are lit in homes and temples creating a soft glow.
I was lucky enough when I was visiting India to have the chance to experience Diwali in the UNESCO World Heritage village of Hampi. Hampi is a small village in south central India where the once and powerful Vijayanagara Empire sat.
While I was in Hampi I was able to walk around the village and see the beautiful lights and colors of this significant holiday. Families were outside enjoying each other and celebrating by shooting fireworks into the air where you could watch from the rooftop restaurants in the village.
While Diwali may be the largest holiday in India, when you actually experience the festival, you realize how very personal the celebration is. People are spilling out of their homes to celebrate, the soft light from the diyas light the way, and there is a general feeling of hope and peace.
If you do visit during Diwali, it’s important to remember that this is the largest holiday in India. There will be shops and restaurants closed for some of the days. You may also encounter transportation issues with people going on holiday or buses and trains being fully booked.
If you want to experience the holiday, make sure to book a place to stay for a few days. Staying in one place for the festival will give you plenty of time to walk around and see the color and lights of the celebration. However, make sure to be respectful of the diyas and rangolis as many hours have been put into creating these symbols and are very important to the Indian people and Diwali.
Guest Author: Chris Slack
Chris is a travel and lifestyle blogger who left the legal field and office world in 2017 to experience the world around her. Chris has traveled to 25 different countries and is looking to travel to more in the future. Chris’s blog, Wandering Feathers, focuses not only on her travels and experiences but also how these travels have affected her day-to-day life and future. Check out her blog: wanderingfeathers.com