Ah, Diwali. The Festival of Light. The most revered date of the year for Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. This joyous event brings family and friends together to celebrate the victory of light over dark and good over evil. Certainly worth timing your trip to India over, co-founder Madeleine advises how best to experience Diwali in Rajasthan during your India tour.
It’s been over a decade since I first stepped foot in India. Indians often tell me “there are more festivals in India than days of the year!” which, to be honest, is not far from the truth. Despite this plethora of celebrations, Diwali is my absolute favourite. It’s such a joyous time to experience this fascinating country; everyone is in good spirits and communities come together to celebrate the victory of light over dark, good over evil, and wisdom over ignorance. In many ways, it’s similar to the buzz you get in the run-up to Christmas and in others, it’s utterly unique. I love the way Indians of all religions come together and how the streets twinkle with fairy lights. The year before last, I spent Diwali in Rajasthan, in the city of Jaipur, and the decorations were magical (side note, there is actually a competition for merchants in Jaipur to see who best decorates the outside of their shop, with the government footing the electricity bill!)
When is Diwali celebrated?
Diwali usually falls in the month of October or November, however, the exact date varies from year to year depending on the lunar calendar. In 2021, Diwali will fall on Thursday, 4 November and in 2022 it’ll be Monday, 24 October. The festival actually spans five days in total with two either side of the main event.
What is Diwali? How is Diwali celebrated?
Diwali celebrates the return of Hindu deities Lord Rama and Goddess Sita to Ayodhya after their 14-year exile. It is said that the people of India lit hundreds and thousands of diya (clay lamps) to light the way back for Lord Rama after he defeated the evil spirit Ravana in Lanka.
On the night of Diwali, those celebrating usually offer special prayers to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and Ganesha, the elephant god who represents fortune and wisdom. Fruits and sweets are offered to the deities, and diya lamps are arranged in and around the home to attract Lakshmi’s attention and blessings for the year ahead. It’s important to wear new clothing.
When the prayers come to a close, it’s time for fireworks. In recent years these have been scaled back due to concerns over air pollution, but certainly, you can still expect a grand display. A lavish dinner then follows.
The festival coincides with the Hindu New Year and as such, is considered an auspicious time by the business community to start new ventures. Often, business owners will also perform a prayer ceremony at their place of work.
This all happens on the third of the five days, but what about the other four days you ask? Well, on the first day its considered good look to purchase something new, usually a kitchen utensil or appliance. The second day, known as Choti Diwali (‘Little Diwali’) is traditionally the day you prepare for the next day’s celebrations, giving the house a good clean and decorating the floor with intricate designs made of coloured powder, petals and candles (these are called rangoli).
Activities on the fourth day differ across the country. In Rajasthan and much of the north, the day is spent offering gratitude to the tools of work. Chefs will pay homage to their kitchen implements, writers to their pen and paper, and artists to their paints and palette.
The fifth day of Diwali in Rajasthan is known as Bhai Dooj and is celebrated by siblings. Sisters pray for the well-being of their brothers and receive sweets and gifts in return.
How can I celebrate Diwali in Rajasthan?
At Indian Excursions, we love to create our guests an authentic Diwali experience and bring alive the magic of the festival. There are many ways you can celebrate Diwali in Rajasthan and together we’ll discuss the options best suited to you. My personal recommendation would be to spend the evening with an Indian family at their home. We are incredibly lucky that many of our guides are keen to open up their own personal celebrations and homes to our guests. You’ll find that your hosts and their children are more than happy to explain the significance of the families rituals and traditions, from the puja (prayers) to the rangoli-making and gift-giving. In previous years our guests have found this a rare and culturally-rich evening that they’ll cherish with fond memories for years to come.
Other guests of ours prefer to take the day at leisure and use this opportunity for a bit of downtime mid-trip. After an easy-going day relaxing at the spa, or with a good book by the pool, you can still dip your toes into the festival; you’ll find that many hotels in Rajasthan mark the occasion with decorative oil lamps and traditionally festive dishes on the menu. My favourite hotel to spend Diwali in Rajasthan would be the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur. Specifically, at their rooftop restaurant, taking in the twinkling lights of the town and the fireworks crackling above. To make the experience all the more special, a couple of our guests in the past have enjoyed donning a traditional sari for the occasion (we can guide you in having one tailored, and help you in draping it correctly on the night).
If you’d like to experience Diwali in Rajasthan on a private, personalised tour, please do get in touch. As experts in tailor-made tours of this specific region with a proven track record, we’re a perfect fit to assist with your travel arrangements and create something truly special. Meanwhile, you might find out sample trips inspiring to start with.0