Diwali, often referred to as the festival of lights, is one of the most famous and celebrated Indian festivals in the world.
In Sanskrit, ‘Diwali’ means ‘row of lights’ and the festival is a celebration of triumph of good over evil in both the Hindu and Sikh faiths. It signifies the return of Lord Rama to his kingdom after 14 years in exile. He is said to have returned after killing the demon king, Ravana. On return, his people lit fireworks and lined the streets with lights, hence the significance of lights in the festivities today.
Diwali takes place over 5 days in October/November (the exact dates decided by the Hindu calendar,) and this year it begins on Wednesday 11th November. This is a time when families come together, share gifts, food and wear new clothes. It signifies the start of the Hindu New Year.
The way Diwali is celebrated can vary in different parts of India and the world. If you are visiting India this month, check out how you can join in and observe the celebrations in different parts of the country:
Diwali is a major festival and is widely celebrated in Rajasthan. Colourful lights and decorations line the streets, traders sell their wares on stalls and in fairs, whilst fireworks light up the night sky. This is one of the best places in India to observe Diwali celebrations. On day one it is said to bring good luck to buy metal and gold ornaments are most popular purchases. Celebrations continue through the following four days by worshipping the goddess of wealth and prosperity Lakshmi Pooja and gathering with relatives. and sometimes friends, to share food, sweets and presents.
Diwali in Andhra Pradesh is focused on traditional celebrations, where families come together to worship and share gifts. In this state, it is mainly celebrated over two days, starting at daybreak and not ending until late at night. People visit temples with their whole families to receive blessings and children play a large part in the enjoyment of the festival here. If you are travelling with children, this would be a good region to observe and partake in festivities.
Celebrations in Maharastra can be rather different to other parts of India. It starts with Vasu-baras which is where people pay thanks to cows for providing for them and their family; cows are honoured in the Hindu faith. Women pray to Lord Yama for a long and healthy life for their sons and husbands. People massage themselves with scented oil and bathe using ayurvedic ‘Utane’ instead of normal soap. Traditional foods and delicacies are prepared and shared amongst families. Colourful patterns called Rangoli’s are painted and proudly displayed in homes.
The native people of Kerala do not celebrate Diwali and it is the only Indian state that it is not celebrated as a major festival. Celebrations may take place in small communities of traditional Hindus and Sikhs who have moved to the region. Although a well known tourist spot, it may be wise to travel further north to observe full festivities.
Health in India
It is vital that you ensure your travel vaccinations are all up to date, prior to any trip to India. Despite extensive development in recent years, India is still a third world country and poses a number of health risks to visitors. All visitors should ensure that their Diptheria, Tetanus and Polio, Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines are in date. There is a high risk of Rabies (spread via animal bites) throughout India and vaccination is advised, especially if you’re visiting remote regions.
Those travelling for longer periods or working in India may want to consider the Hepatitis B vaccination course. If you plan to spend a lot of time in rural countryside areas, particularly rice fields, then the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine is essential.
There is also a high risk of Malaria in the states of Assam and Orrisa, and antimalarial medication is essential in these parts. The rest of the country has a low-no risk chance of malaria, however it is vital that all travellers use a DEET based mosquito repellent both day and night.
To have a safe trip, and get your travel vaccinations and antimalarials, book your appointment with us now.