If you ever have pondered what the best time to visit India is, we have the answer for you. India is at its glorious best in autumn, when the festival of Diwali is celebrated throughout the country with a great pomp and show. As the weather gets balmier and a little chill in the air is palpable, the country enters a mode of festivities. The streets lit up, a shopping spree takes over the country, and it’s common to find people excited about the upcoming holiday season. There might not be statistics to prove it, but we bet that you would find locals a bit happier, an ounce more exhilarated and a tonne more hospitable during this time than the rest of the year. As the Diwali fever grows and envelops all, joy is experienced in little things like exchange of sweets and gifts, hosting friends over for a game of cards, and lighting candles in the backyard to celebrate the victory of the good over evil and light over darkness.
Already excited about visiting India for Diwali? Here are top five places where you can see the festivities at their best:
The holiest city in India, the Diwali celebration in Varanasi is magnificent and has a spiritual shade to it. An ideal Diwali day in Varanasi starts with taking a dip in the River Ganges with lakhs of others who gather in the city to be a part of the festivities. The local markets experience hustle and bustle all the day long, which is followed by lighting ‘diyas’ on the shores of the river in the evening, an activity that contributes toward a stunning spectacle. The major highlight for most tourists is the goose-bump inducing chants and recital session on ghats of Ganga. While for the most of country the celebrations end this day, in Varanasi ‘Dev Deepawali’ is marked 15 days after Diwali in honour of Indian gods who are believed to reside over the city during this time.
The city of Golden Temple, Amritsar shines and looks marvellous during Diwali. The whole city is lit up to mark the Sikh ‘Bandi Chor Diwas’, a celebration in the memory of the release of the sixth guru of Sikhs from a Mughal jail. The temple premises are draped in multi-coloured lights and make for an ethereal spectacle. The special kirtan (prayer) sessions are held throughout the city, lending celebrations a touch of spirituality. A stunning display of fireworks is just what it takes to amplify the festive fervour.
Jaipur and Udaipur
The many palaces, forts and lakes of Jaipur and Udaipur draw tourists to the royal Rajasthan because of their rich architecture and history as well as their magnificence. But at no other time do these marvellous specimens of grandeur shine and mesmerise than at the time of Diwali. As the lights illuminate the palaces, their shadow on the beautiful lakes make for one of the most photograph-worthy moments. The special Diwali fairs see locals riding camels, witnessing or participating in the music and dance extravaganza as well savouring sumptuous Marwari delicacies.
Purushwadi, a small village located on the Mumbai-Nashik highway, invites visitors for a quieter Diwali. The local communities in the village come together as one big family to mark the occasion. They light bonfire, cook local delicacies for a community feast, sing traditional songs and decorate their houses with Rangoli (a design made on the floor using coloured-powder). The children visit all houses to collect oil for their lamps that they light in their houses. The Diwali celebration in Purushwadi is one of the best chances for tourist to see a sense of communal bonding that still exists in some parts of India.
A party place throughout the year, Goa turns into the ultimate merrymaking destination especially during Diwali. The ritualistic part of the celebration sees people creating larger-than-life effigies of demon Naraksura, and burning them a day before the festival. There are even competitions that award the scariest, tallest effigies. Gambling is an essential part of Diwali celebrations in Goa, with top casinos offering special Diwali deals.