One of the most popular festivals in India, Diwali, is celebrated in unique ways across the country
Lighting earthen diyas (tiny earthen, oil-filled lamps with wicks), bursting firecrackers, decorating homes and inviting nearest and dearest to a sumptuous feast; Diwali has always been a special occasion in India. People start their preparation almost a month prior to the festival, making sure that the house is decked-up, new clothes are bought and sweets and gifts are sent to relatives and friends. Let’s find out how the festival is celebrated across India.
While most people of India celebrate Diwali on the new moon night, Varanasi waits a whole fortnight to burst out the fireworks. On the full moon, 15 nights after Diwali, the holy city celebrates Dev Deepawali—literally, the Diwali of the Gods. It is believed that gods and goddesses visit Earth for a dip in the river. The festivities have gained so much popularity that a festival called Ganga Mahotsav is celebrated along with Dev Deepawali.
During Diwali, West Bengal celebrates Goddess Kali. While lighting diyas and bursting firecrackers remain common to the other parts of India celebrating Diwali, a large number of devotees visit Kalighat, Dakshineswar and Adyapeeth Kali temples in and around the city to offer prayers to the goddess. Apart from community pandals (marquees), Kali Puja is also performed in houses. Family members pitch in to arrange items for the rituals and the prasad (food offering to the deity).
While the rest of the country observes Diwali for two to five days, in Gujarat the celebrations can go up to a week. Diwali, in Gujarat, begins with Agyaras, two days before Dhanteras. This falls on the 11th day of Aso Vad month of the Gujarati calendar or the month of October/November. On this day, elaborate foods are prepared – Gujarati specialties for the purpose of distribution and gifting on the Gujarati New Year. Houses are cleaned, fasts are observed, friends and relatives are invited and festive spirit is in the air.
Dhanteras, known in Tamil Nadu as Dhana Trayodsi or Asweyuja Bahula Thrayodasi, sets the tone for Diwali celebrations in Tamil Nadu. Houses are cleaned and Dhanvantari, the goddess of health and wealth, is worshiped. Effigies of demon Narkasura’s downfall is celebrated and the bond of siblings are honoured. Like the rest of the country, Tamil Nadu also celebrates Diwali with a grand display of fireworks to ward off evil spirits.
Diwali celebration in Maharashtra isn’t very different from those in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. The celebration begin with Dhanteras, known in Maharashtra as Dhantrayodashi, worshipping the goddess of health and wealth. On this day, precious metal, preferably gold is purchased. The killing of Narkasura is celebrated on Narak Chaturdashi. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is worshipped on Lakshmi Puja.
Goa maybe famous for its beaches and parties, the state is also deeply rooted in tradition. Effigies of demon Narakasura are made with dried leaves, paper and firecrackers. People carry these effigies in a procession and burn it post dusk.