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Celebrating Diwali in India

Published 30 March 2016

Giulia Mule

Giulia Mulè

Diwali (or Deepavali, the ‘row of lights’) is an ancient Hindu festival celebrated around October / November every year. It is one of the largest and brightest festivals in India, as Giulia Mule explains.

Fireworks at the market, Mumbai

image: Giulia Mulè

Why celebrate Diwali?

There are many reasons why Hindu people celebrate Diwali. The festival marks the end of the month of Kartika in the lunar Hindu calendar; the day of Diwali coincides with the darkest night of the month. Lanterns and small earthenware oil lamps called diyas are lit throughout the night in the days before Diwali to symbolise the victory of light over darkness.

Diwali is also celebrated in the epic Sanskrit poem Ramayan: as Rama returned to his kingdom with Sita, after a fierce battle against Ravana, fireworks were burst in the sky to guide the prince on his way home and to rejoice his victory.

Many rituals are followed by Hindus during this time of the year, and traditions differ from family to family, and from state to state.

I celebrate Diwali every year with my husband in London, but the most exciting times are when we spend the holiday in Mumbai with his family. The celebrations go on for days all over India, so it’s a fantastic time to be in the country.

Marigold flowers at the market, Mumbai

image: Giulia Mulè

Before Diwali

When I am in Mumbai with my mother in law it feels like every day there is a new errand to run or a ritual to follow to please the Gods and ensure the new year will be happy and prosperous.

Three days before Diwali we buy gold and silver (it is auspicious to buy them during the festival) and clothes to wear on the day of Diwali and on New Year.

Account books, Mumbai, Diwali

image: Giulia Mulè

New account books are bought as well, to celebrate the start of a new, rich year.

Rangoli sand art, Mumbai, Diwali

image: Giulia Mulè

The day before Diwali we stay at home to decorate the house and make rangoli, an art in which patterns are created on the floor using coloured powders and flower petals. Traditionally women and their children get together to make these colourful designs at the entrance to their homes.

Rangoli powders, Mumbai

image: Giulia Mulè

Celebrating Diwali in Mumbai

Mumbai celebrates the festival of lights like no other and the city is full of excitement in the days before leading up to Diwali. Homes and temples are lit up with bright lanterns and children play in the streets with firecrackers every night. During the day the markets are buzzing with traders selling flowers and colourful powders for rangoli, while throngs of shoppers fill the stores looking for new clothes and jewellery.

On the day of Diwali the whole family gathers together to have dinner and share gifts. This is the time of the year to exchange gifts with your loved ones (like Christmas in the western world). Another reason why children love Diwali so much!

Diwali sweets

image: Giulia Mulè

Our home is always full of sweets at this time of the year. It is an important custom during the festival to prepare, eat and share Diwali sweets, such as kaju burfi (sweet cashew nuts), ladoo (a dough of flour, milk and sugar), peda (made with cardamom, pistachio and saffron) and ghughra (sweet coconut pastries).

Sparklers, Mumbai, Diwali

image: Giulia Mulè

After the family dinner, on the night of Diwali, kids will play with fireworks on the streets and on the rooftops. Mumbaiites celebrate all night long in Marine Drive to the sounds of the firecrackers.

Temple decorated for Diwali, Mumbai

image: Giulia Mulè

After Diwali

The day after Diwali is celebrated as New Year to welcome Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. Hindus go to the temple to thank the Gods and pray for health, knowledge, peace and prosperity.

This day is a bank holiday so the whole family is together again. With my husband’s family we always go to the temple, then we have lunch together and go for a walk on the beach or stay at home playing games with the children.

Diwali is a joyous time for Hindus all over the world. Celebrating the festival in India will give you the chance to see the country in a new light and to learn about its oldest and most popular traditions.


Spend two nights in Mumbai with Round the World Experts’ Colours of Karnataka Journey.


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