With the Festival of Lights fast approaching – this year, it begins on Wednesday, October 26 – we’ve looked into Diwali/Deepavali travel and compiled a list of the best places to celebrate it…
Trinidad & Tobago
As the islands’ Indo-Trinidadian/Indo-Tobagonian community makes up almost half of the population, it’s no surprise that Diwali is a major event here – a cause for celebration throughout this multicultural, multiethnic and multireligious society. One way in which the nation has made the festival its own is a preference for using coconut oil in traditional diya lamps rather than ghee or vegetable oil. One particularly popular organised celebration, which has taken place for more than 20 years, occurs at the Divali Nagar (“City of Lights”) site in the town of Chaguanas.
This island nation off the coast of Africa is another whose population contains many with roots on the Indian subcontinent –in fact, a recent study found that Indo-Mauritians made up almost 70 per cent of the population. Mauritius becomes festooned with lamps and candles at sunset, lending an already beautiful island a particularly remarkable ambience.
Here in India’s most populous metropolitan centre, Diwali is everywhere you look. Many restaurants offer special menus during the festival, and the skies above are lit with fantastic fireworks – an integral part of the occasion. The view is particularly spectacular at Marine Drive, near the coast, where thousands flock annually with rockets and “crackers” (firecrackers) to put on their own display.
Long-feted as a hippie hotspot where travellers come for spiritual discovery, during Diwali Goa offers visitors a true glimpse of Indian religious life. Known locally as “Dhaakti Diwali”, the Goan take on the Festival of Lights is characterised by the building of grass-stuffed effigies of the demon Narakasura, which are processed through the streets before being burned at dawn, as well as the sight of homes festooned with akash-diwas/akash-kandils (‘sky-lamps’).
The location of one of Sikhism’s holiest sites, the Golden Temple, Amritsar celebrates Diwali in grand style. The temple is illuminated with a dazzling array of lamps which, along with fireworks, create splendid reflections in the surrounding pool, known as the “Holy Pool of Nectar” from which the city takes its name.
Promoted as “the biggest Indian festival in Australia”, the Deepavali Festival 2011 at Parramatta Stadium in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta takes place on Sunday, 30 October 2011. It is organised by the Hindu Council of Australia, which represents more than 100,000 Hindus and has been responsible for such events for the last 13 years. Attractions include a dance competition, Indian food stalls and bazaar, Indian artists in attendance, and the burning of a giant effigy of demon-king Ravana.
Hinduism’s holiest place, this city on the Ganges is one of the oldest continually-habited cities in the world. The sense of history and tradition encountered here, especially on an occasion like Diwali, is palpable. Due to its status as a centre of learning, culture and religion, Varanasi is sometimes referred to as the “City of Lights” – the perfect place, then, in which to celebrate the Festival of Lights. The banks of the river, in which candles are floated and flaming effigies finally doused, are lined with lamps, and the devout congregate in its famed ghats, each of which has its own special significance.