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Guide to Experiencing Diwali 2020

Diwali, or Deepavali, is one of the largest Hindu holidays of the year and is the celebration of the victory of good over evil and light over dark. Diwali is celebrated every year for 5 days in early October or late November and is full of beautiful lights, candles, gifts, and desserts.

A great way to learn more about Indian culture is to experience one of the country"s most important holidays. On this page, we"ve put together all the essential information about when to go, how to celebrate, where to celebrate, what hotels to look for, and all the practical advice you need for planning your Diwali trip to India.

Why go to India for Diwali

  • Diwali is known as the Hindu New Year and is one of the largest and most widely celebrated holidays in the country. Experiencing this holiday in India is a great way to learn more about the core values of the local culture.
  • Diwali is a great time to be in India because the markets come alive as they are decorated with lights and people flock to them buy gifts for one another or purchase gold and silver for luck.
  • The clay Diwali diyas or lanterns make for incredible photos as they sit outside homes and line streets to ward off the darkness.
  • On the main day of the festival, Indians dress up in their most beautiful traditional clothing giving travelers the chance to see the many colorful and elegant styles of India and even try some for themselves.
  • During Diwali, there is an abundance of things to do for travelers from attending a holiday fair and exploring markets to experiencing rituals with an Indian family and trying holidays sweets.

Diwali Dates and When to Go

Like most Indian holidays, the date of Diwali changes every year according to the Hindu calendar which is based on both solar and lunar cycles. The main day of Diwali celebrations falls on the night of the new moon in the Hindu month of Kartika and therefore usually takes in late October or November.

Upcoming Diwali Dates:

  • 2020: November 12-16
  • 2021: November 2-6
  • 2022: October 22-26

Most Indians get a week-long holiday for Diwali which means that transportation and popular tourist sites are likely to be more crowded than normal.

Because of this, we recommend spending at least 7-10 days in India if you plan to visit for Diwali. This way, you can experience the holiday while giving yourself enough time to travel the country and see other parts of India as well.

Diwali lasts for 5 days, but the first three days are when many of the rituals, Diwali markets, and holiday lights are at their best. It"s best to spend at least three days of Diwali in one place so you can get the full experience by exploring with a local guide or spending time with an Indian family.

How to Celebrate Diwali

The third day of celebrations is the main day of Diwali when people get together with their families, eat large meals, exchange gifts, wear their best traditional clothing, and perform rituals to honor Lakshmi.

After day three, celebrations begin to wind down and the fourth day (Padwa) is dedicated to celebrating the love between husband and wife while the fifth day (Bhai Duj) is for celebrating the bond between siblings and cousins.

Learn more about how Diwali is celebrated in India.

How to Celebrate Diwali as a Traveler 

Diwali is a very family-focused holiday and most Indians perform the religious rituals in their own homes with their loved ones. Because of this, it can be hard for travelers to decide how best to experience the celebrations.

Don"t worry, there are plenty of great ways to experience Diwali as a traveler. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Get a local guide to take you to the Diwali markets where you can watch the holiday shopping chaos as you explore the decorated streets, learn about Diwali traditions, and of course buy some things that catch your eye.
  • Stay with an Indian family to get an up-close experience of the holiday traditions and rituals. At a homestay, you can be as involved in the holiday as you want whether that is participating in rituals and wearing traditional clothing or observing everything from afar.
  • Experience Diwali rituals and activities by staying in a heritage hotel. Many heritage hotels, especially in Rajasthan, hold Diwali activities for guests over the holidays.
  • Head outside to watch the fireworks and see the children having fun with firecrackers in the streets.
  • Try the delicious Indian sweets that are sold all over during Diwali such as gujiya, laddoo, barfi, and more.

Where to Celebrate Diwali

Jaipur is the best place to visit for beautiful views of an entire city lit up with electric lights for the holiday. Most of Jaipur"s markets and homes in the old areas of the city are beautifully decorated with colorful string lights. You can get sweeping views of the lights and colors of the city below from the impressive Nahargarh Fort.

For a different type of Diwali, we recommend heading to Kolkata where Kali Puja is celebrated on the main day of the festival. Instead of celebrating Lakshmi on this day, Kolkata celebrates Kali, the goddess of destruction, with large statues of the fearsome goddess erected in pandals all around the city.

Amritsar is a Sikh city that is world-famous as the location of the Golden Temple. In Sikhism, Diwali is celebrated as Bandi Chhor Divas, the day that Guru Hargobind Sahib was released from unjust imprisonment. During this time, the Golden Temple is draped in lights and surrounded by oil lanterns making it truly a sight to see.

For people who love Indian markets and hunting for that perfect gift or souvenir, then we recommend spending time in Delhi. The capital city absolutely comes alive over the holiday with Diwali markets and fairs that are decorated in string lights and sell everything from religious items and diyas to traditional clothing and gold.

Get more ideas on the best places to spend Diwali in India.

Booking a Hotel or Homestay 

To get the most cultural insight during your trip, it is important to book a hotel or homestay that has Diwali activities for the guests to participate in. For those who want to stay in comfort and luxury while celebrating, many Indian heritage hotels put on Diwali celebrations for their guests.

The Samode Palace and Samode Haveli in Jaipur are beautiful hotels that both offer Diwali activities as well as fireworks. The Pushkar Bagh luxury heritage resort offers special Diwali packages for their guests and all Neemrana and Ambassador hotels put on holiday activities. Make sure to call and ask the hotel about their activities before booking.

If you are looking for a more local Diwali experience, then there"s no better way than staying with an Indian family. Homestays have become more and more popular in India, especially in tourist cities like Delhi and Jaipur.

In Jaipur, the All Seasons Homestay is a comfortable and clean homestay that welcomes guests to celebrate with them. In Delhi, we love the Prakash Kutir bed-and-breakfast.

Diwali Tips

Traveling in India can already be an intense and chaotic experience, but when Diwali comes along things can get even more crowded and confusing. Here are some tips about traveling in India during Diwali to help you have the most enjoyable holiday experience.

  • During the holiday fireworks and firecrackers are likely to be lit by locals throughout the night and at random times during the day. If you are a light sleeper, make sure to bring a pair of earplugs with you to ensure you are woken up too much by the explosions.
  • Children often celebrate by running through the streets armed with firecrackers and flaming sparklers. When you are walking through the city stay vigilant and make sure not to get accidentally burnt.
  • Diwali markets are often hectic and busy and it is important to guard your belongings in case of pickpockets. 
  • Because there are many domestic tourists at this time, accommodation and transportation can get crowded. Always make sure to book your hotels and travel well in advance.
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