Diwali: Festival of Light

Marking the start of the Hindu New Year

The banishment of darkness in favour of light is prevalent in every myth and story about Diwali and it's what brings everyone in India together in celebration. Houses are decorated with rangoli - colourful designs on the floor made out of rice, sand, or flower petals - and candles and clay lamps are lit all around the house. Family and friends come together to light diyas, exchange gifts and enjoy food.

Sweets - or mithai - are a speciality at Diwali as some are so complex that they are only made at this time of year. Mithai often have a nut or vegetable base and are condensed down with sugar and milk to make sweet, syrupy treats; they tend to be served alongside masala chai tea after the main meal. As well as sweets, savoury snacks are served throughout the festivities, including chivda, similar to Bombay Mix, and samosas.

With the New Year approaching, Diwali honours Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, who wanders the streets during Diwali. The lanterns that people light are said to guide her into their homes and bring prosperity for the next year. Hindus in the north of India celebrate the return of the gods Rama and Sita from a 14 year banishment, after Rama managed to defeat the demon king Ravana with the help of a monkey army led by Hanuman. During the period of Diwali, people in the Bengal state worship the goddess Kali, destroyer of evil forces, in what is known as the Kali Puja festival.

In Nepal, Diwali is more commonly known as Tihar, and they worship animals such as dogs, cows, and crows as well as their gods and elders. The traditions are still the same as Diwali; diyas are lit and rangoli decorate the floor to welcome the gods and goddesses.

Jains also celebrate a festival of light as it marks the anniversary of when Mahavira's soul reached Nirvana and was liberated. The Jains use Diwali to celebrate Mahavira's teachings and his contribution to the greater humanity. For Sikhs, this period remembers Guru Hargobind's release from prison with 52 princes after being held by the Emperor Jahangir. It is known as Bandi Chhor Divas - Day of Liberation - and celebrates freedom and human rights.

The Festival of Light isn't just a public holiday in India - more than 800 million people celebrate it in various ways around the world; it is celebrated throughout South Asia in Nepal, Singapore, Myanmar, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and even Fiji. However, the largest celebration outside of India is actually in the city of Leicester in the UK! To make sure you don’t miss out on Diwali next year, why not think about booking your small group tour to India today?

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