One of the biggest cultural events in India is Diwali. The Festival of Lights, as Diwali is commonly known, is celebrated worldwide by numerous Indian communities. It is a festival with origins in harvest celebrations and Hinduism, although it is also of significance to Sikh and Jain religions.
In the diverse and multicultural country of India, Diwali is a time when people gather to celebrate the victory of good over evil, embrace knowledge and wealth and ‘driving away the darkness’ with light.
The festival lasts for five days, with each day dedicated to a different ritual or tradition, and celebrating everything from business, to connections between siblings.
Diwali is an incredibly significant celebration in India, and not just because it is an official public holiday. This year, the celebrations for Diwali begin on the 23rd of October all through India. The focus of the celebrations is luck and prosperity, so wealth is honoured and the people of India meditate on new beginnings.
During Diwali, family and friends give each other sweets and small gifts; firecrackers and colourful lanterns are sold at markets; fireworks displays are common. People shop for new clothes and decorate their homes with candles, oil lamps and torans, which are patterned garlands made with mango or banana leaves and marigolds.
The Festival of Lights comes at the end of harvest, a time of relative prosperity for the people in a poor country, so a feeling of joy and positivity abounds.
Diwali in Mumbai
In Mumbai, the celebrations of Diwali are particularly spectacular and large-scale so if you are planning to visit India to take part in the festival, Mumbai should be on the top of your list. You can visit the Siddhivinayak temple in Prabhadevi and line up with the locals as they worship, or after the sun sets you can go to Chowpatty Beach or Marine Parade where thousands gather to see lights, firecracker and fireworks displays.
Local restaurants offer a variety of specialty dishes including Gulab Jamun, made with fried dough and milk, or Karanji (which is also known as Ghughra), a small pasty that is stuffed with a delicious mix of sugar, nuts and butter. Consider dropping by the famous Golden Star Thali restaurant, whose signature dish, Surti Undhiyu which ismade from fresh harvest vegetables.
You could even indulge in an afternoon tea at the 1930s inspired Sea Lounge at the Taj Hotel. Mumbai is a wonderful place to experience Diwali; during the festival, the city in daytime is a beautiful riot of colour and at night the landscape looks as though it is covered in stars.
Want to see the celebrations close up?
Planning a trip to India during Diwali guarantees you see it at its prettiest and most celebratory, so plan to see as much of it as you can. The exciting thing about travel is that you never know what’s going to happen next, so compare travel insurance before you go to make sure you are covered in case something doesn’t go to plan.
Read up on the do’s and don’ts before you leave, and remember that, due to the crowds that Diwali pulls, services and transport can be unreliable, so bring your adventurous spirit and a good attitude.