In the Spirit of Diwali

With millions of lamps lighting up the vista and firecrackers creating a spectacle in the skies, India looks like a decked up bride on the eve of Diwali

The excitement of Diwali, one of India’s most important festivals, which is celebrated across the country with much grandeur, starts way before it arrives. Houses are cleaned and decorated, traditional savouries dished up, firecrackers stocked and gifts arranged for. Shopping for clothes, oil lamps, lanterns, rangoli, ubtan etc. is part of the festivities. It’s also a time when people bond with family, friends and loved ones.

Although the essence of Diwali remains common everywhere, India being a potpourri of varied cultures, celebrations differ with its every region. Tag along with us on a festive tour that unveils the unique customs, food and must visit spots of some prominent Gulf Air destinations.

New Delhi

Unique customs: Diwali celebrations begin early in the Indian capital with onset of the Dusshera festival during which, Ramlila – a dramatic rendition of the story of the epic Ramayana – is staged at every nook and corner. Diwali is a lavish affair spread over five days – Dhanteras, Chhoti Diwali, Laxmi Pujan, Govardhan Puja and Bhai Dooj. Sweets, dry fruits and silver coins are most common gifts. Engaging shopping melas are a striking feature of the city.

Special treats: Motichoor ladoo, gulab jamun, jalebi, gajar halwa, rabdi, khoya and Bengali sweets.

Must visit spots: Parliament House, Akshardham temple, India Gate, Delhi Haat, Select City Walk, Chandni Chowk, Lajpat Nagar

Mumbai

Unique customs: Children and adults both enjoy the tradition of making a mud fort and decorating it with warrior dolls during Diwali. If you visit a local’s home you will be treated with ‘faraal’ – a food plate adorned with an assortment of traditional Maharashtrian Diwali snacks. Mumbaikars are also enthusiastic about drawing huge rangoli designs in popular public spaces.

Special treats: Traditional savouries such as karanji, chirote, anarsa, shankarpali, ladoo, sev, chakli, chiwda.

Must visit spots: Marine Drive, Chowpatty beach, Juhu beach, Siddhivinayak temple, Fashion Street, Linking Road, Chira Bazaar.

Hyderabad

Unique customs: In the city of Nizams, the festival starts at the crack of dawn. While some areas host local stage story telling called Hari Katha, some others put up a huge Narakasura (demon) dummy made with fireworks, which is later burst by a person dressed as lord Krishna. There is a unique custom of decorating homes with paper figures.

Special treats: Badam ki jali, asharfi, pootharekulu, ariselu, madta khaja, milk Mysore pak.

Must visit spots: Birla mandir and Jagannath temple, the Light and Sound show at Golconda fort.

Chennai

Unique customs: Tamilians celebrate Diwali a day in advance on Naraka Chaturdasi and address the festival as ‘Deepavali’. On Diwali morning people wake up early and apply a special oil made by mixing turmeric powder, pepper balls and dry curry leaves. This is followed by a hot water bath and simultaneous bursting of crackers for good luck.

Special treats: Laddu, badusha, jangree and Mysore pak. A Diwali special lunch consisting of laddu, kadamba, pineapple rasam, avial, paruppu vadai, paruppu payasam etc. is served at restaurants.

Must visit spots: T Nagar, Meenakshi temple in Madurai, Rameswaram as the iconic Rama Sethu is located here.

Kochi Unique customs: Diwali is a single day affair for the Malayalis. Betel leaves, betel nuts, plantain fruits, sandal paste and gingili oil are some unique things used for puja. The ritual of performing enchantments in front of the family deity, is followed by a breakfast of idli or dosa and murruku, a sweet dish. Processions of lord Vishnu and Narakasura are worth a watch. Watches and writing instruments are favoured gifting options for men.

Special treats: Wheat halwa, various ladoos, Mysore pak, pedas, boli, badusha.

Must visit spots: MG Road for shopping, Fort Kochi for Diwali special events.

Thiruvanathapuram (Kerala)

Unique customs: Hordes of people visit temples of goddess Laxmi and lord Ganesha on Diwali morning. People voluntarily join processions of elephants, which are decorated tastefully for the purpose. But celebrations in Kerala are mostly limited to bursting of crackers.

Special treats: Sweet somas, adhirasam, okkarai, thiratipal, aval laddu, murukku, ribbon murukku, Mysore bonda.

Must visit spots: MG Road, Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple and Guruvayoor Srikrishna temple.

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