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What is Diwali?

An Introduction to Deepavali - the Festival of Lights


What is Diwali

The Diwali Festival in India is about light and color.

SFU Public Affairs and Media Relations

The Diwali Festival, also known as the 'Festival of Lights' is an important Hindu holiday celebrated throughout India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, and any place with a large Indian population.

Diwali is pronounced 'dee-vahl-ee'; some other spellings for the Diwali Festival in India include: Deepavali, Devali, and Divali.

The festival is celebrated throughout India, however, it's especially prevalent in big cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, and Jaipur in Rajasthan.

What is Diwali?

Similar to Chinese New Year, Diwali is celebrated with family gatherings, new clothes, special treats, and fireworks that drive away evil spirits to bring luck and prosperity in the new business year.

Cities glow with colorful lights and ghee lanterns left on throughout the night as a celebration of good over evil and the triumph of inner light over ignorance. Continuous firecrackers frighten both evil spirits and unsuspecting tourists.

The Diwali festival lasts for five days. The peak is usually on the third day which is considered the new year's eve. The last day is set aside for brothers and sisters to spend time together.

Temples are especially busy with rituals and religious rites during Diwali. Be respectful and cover yourself if you happen inside; don't take photos of worshipers.

Who Celebrates Diwali?

Although the official reasons for celebrating Diwali differ, the event is observed by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and even Buddhists. All contribute to the atmosphere with lamps and colorful decorations.

Still a relatively new concept, the Diwali Festival is becoming more widely observed throughout the West. Many large cities in the US, Europe, and Australia now sponsor celebrations. Diwali even often overlaps with the Bonfire Night holiday in the UK which is also celebrated with fire and fireworks.

In 2009, President Obama was the first US president to celebrate Diwali at the White House.

Traveling During the Festival

With such widespread celebrations and many people off work to return to their home villages, Diwali will certainly have an impact on your travels in India. Public transportation will be clogged with people returning home to families; trains during the festival should be booked well in advance.

Hotels in popular cities can fill up quick. See more about booking budget hotels in India.

When is the Diwali Festival?

The dates for Diwali are based on the Hindu calendar and change each year, but the festival typically falls between October and December.

  • Diwali 2012 was celebrated on November 13.
  • Diwali 2013 will begin on November 3.
  • Diwali 2014 will begin on October 23.
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