Diwali is probably one of the most well-known of all the Indian festivals, and it’s celebrated in Indian communities across the world. But what’s it all about?
Diwali (translated as ‘row of lighted lamps) commemorates different deities and associated events depending on the area of India in which you find yourself, and whether you’re in a Hindu, Sikh or Jain community. In northern India, Diwali commemorates the end of Rama’s 14-year exile and his eventual coronation. In Gujarat, the focus shifts to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Then further north in Nepal, Diwali participants honour Lord Krishna’s victory over the demon king Narakaasura, and in Bengal Diwali is associated with the Hindu goddess Kali.
Whichever their preference, celebrants decorate their homes with flowers and mango leaves, deck themselves out in new clothes, light clay lamps, set off fireworks and exchange sweets and gifts with friends and relatives. It’s a joyous time to be in India. To westerners, Diwali will probably seem a bit like Christmas, albeit with a lot more fireworks.
Obviously, India is the best place to experience Diwali, but if you’re elsewhere in the world for this year’s Diwali celebrations, here are some places you could go to take part in the festival of light.
If you’re in London, head to Trafalgar Square on the 16th of October between 2pm and 7pm. In Vancouver, the 8th annual ‘Vancouver Celebrates Diwali’ festival takes place this year between October 16th and 23rd. And, with one of the largest Indian populations outside of India residing in South Africa, all three main cities (Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town) hold Diwali celebrations over the period. Check out their Facebook page for more information.
What are your plans for Diwali this year? Will you be heading to India for the authentic experience, or are you going to be enjoying the festival from somewhere else? Tell us in the comments section below.