How to Experience the Diwali Festival of Lights in India

For Hindus throughout India and the world, the celebration of Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is one of the most important events on the calendar. Here’s what you need to know about visiting India during this special time.

What to Expect
Throughout the festival, local families decorate their homes with candles and small oil lanterns made from clay, lit to honor the Goddess Lakshmi. Families and friends get together to play cards and gamble, exchange gifts, and share food. While all the candlelight creates quite the magical atmosphere, be prepared for lots of noise, as well as smoke from fireworks and firecrackers,

When to Go
The five-day festival of Diwali typically takes place between mid-October and mid-November right around the harvest. The main festivities take place on the night of the new moon—the best night to enjoy fireworks and sparklers. 

Where to Go
Diwali is celebrated throughout India, with the exception of the state of Kerala, where Onam is the main festival. Some cities have their own unique ways of celebrating. In Goa, for example, effigies of demons are often burned to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. In Jaipur, buildings and markets are illuminated in colorful lights, while the ghats of Varanasi are lined with flickering candles. Mumbai and Amritsar are both known for their excellent fireworks displays.

How to Go
Visitors to India have numerous ways of experiencing the Diwali celebrations. Since this is a family-centered festival, one of the best ways is to join a local family in Delhi, Mumbai, or Jaipur to see firsthand how they celebrate. Diwali-themed tours allow visitors to experience the festivities in multiple cities, like Varanasi, Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra, over the course of several days.

Things to Know
Bring a pair of earplugs, especially if your ears are sensitive; the pyrotechnics can be noisy.
No matter where you’re celebrating, go out in a group; the atmosphere is generally warm and welcoming, but expect a few intoxicated individuals as well.
Consider bringing a tripod or monopod to better capture images of the candles, lanterns, and fireworks after dark.
Be prepared to sleep in and stay up late; many festivities take place after dark.
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