Diwali, also known as Deepawali, is one of the most popular and auspicious festivals in India. It is the festival of light and sounds where the people of all religions, castes and communities come together and celebrate it with great pomp and show. This festival of Lights, Diwali, is celebrated for a period of five days and marks the arrival of the Hindu New Year. These five days consists of Dhanteras, Chotti Diwali, Badi Diwali, Govardhan Puja and Bhaiya Dooj. During these five days, offices, schools and other businesses are closed for festive holidays. These holidays can be used as a short vacation opportunity and can be planned to visit some exotic travel locations in India that also celebrate Diwali in special ways.
The planning for such a Diwali vacation should ideally begin around 2 months before so that train and hotel reservations and bookings can be made and no chance is missed for a wonderful Diwali vacation. If you are thinking where to go for Diwali vacations, here are the top six locations where people can enjoy with their friends and family on Diwali.
Jaipur- See the River of Lights on Diwali!
Jaipur is one of the most beautiful cities in Rajasthan and offers a number of options for sightseeing, especially at night during Diwali days when all the markets are illuminated with lights. It is one of the best places to visit during Diwali. You can see huge lighting arrangements to woo the judges of competition that declares the best illuminated shop and the best illuminated market on the occasion of Diwali. Get along with the excited crowd to see the ‘Roshni’ on Diwali, as it is expressed in the local language of Jaipur!
Known as the Pink City of Rajasthan, there are many other places to visit in Jaipur along with the light bathed markets and buildings here. The world famous Hawa Mahal is a five storied structure having more than 950 windows and can be enjoyed not only by you but the kids too. Posing before Hawa Mahal for photographs is one of the best feelings you can have.
Amber fort on the hilltop in the vicinity of Jaipur city is something you won’t forget. The famous Sheesh mahal here will give you numerous reflection of your’s when you lit a match stick inside this small room with innumerable mirrors. Large steps leading to the fort, elephant rides, long passages, windows from where sepoys watched over the security of the city, big decorative doors and the temple of Goddess Kali at Amber fort are only few things that you can see!
The other fort worthy of visit here are Jaigarh fort which overlooks Amber fort, with its famous ‘Cannon’- Jaivaan. Nahargarh fort, the Central Park, the Ranbargh polo ground, Birla Mandir, Jantar Mantar, City Palace museum, Albert hall museum are also worth seeing. The Mubarak Mahal in the City Palace of Jaipur has a musuem inside and shows many shawls, silk sarees and Sanganer textiles too. And don’t forget to go to Chokhi Dhani, the famous village resort of Jaipur to enjoy the village life. Rajasthani Cuisines are worth tasting at least once and more so at Chokhi Dhani where they show the genuine Rajasthani hospitality while serving ‘Daal-baati-churma’ along with other authentic Rajasthani food!.
Jaipur is also a Shopper’s paradise. There are many things worth buying, the earthen lamps, the Rajasthani handicrafts, pottery and other items that can be bought but don’t forget to bargain for price if you are not at a shop with a policy of ‘Fixed Price’. The local traditional clothes can also be bought in different ranges and quality after a good round of bargaining.
Specific to Diwali, if you want to see a river of lights go to some hilly area on the night of Diwali and see Jaipur city from there- an unforgettable experience! Nahargarh fort that houses a restaurant can be a good choice for this.
Kolkata- Perform Kali Puja here on Diwali!
A visit to Kolkata can be planned during Diwali as it is one of the best times to be here around the Diwali time. Not because of traditional Diwali celebrations but because of the popular Kali Puja that Bengalis perform on Diwali day. They do not perform Lakshmi Puja on Diwali. Lakshmi Puja is performed by them on Sharad Purnima, just after five days of Vijayadashami or Dussehra. When you see Kali Puja at Kolkata, your myth about this goddess will vanish away. You will know that Kali is not the Goddess of black magic and is not only worshipped by the Tantrics. Kali is the form of Durga, the Shakti having power to destroy evil. Almost each and every Bengali worship Goddess Kali to destroy the evil not only outside but from the innermost self too.
Kali Puja in Kolkata is performed in beautifully decorated Pandals, just as Durga Puja is celebrated. Kali puja is done during the late hours of Diwali night. The next day, prasad is accepted by the devotees. Its a matter of sheer joy to see how the Goddess is worshipped here on Diwali which makes Kolkata a prefect Diwali vacation destination too.
And you can taste the finest of sweets here. The famous ones include rasgullas, sandesh, mishti doi along with many other innovative delicacies. You can also visit spots like Park street, the Kalighat temple of Goddess Kali, the Shaktipeeths of Goddess Shakti, that are decorated specially for Diwali. Don’t forget to visit Belur Math and Dakhineswhar, the temple of Kali where none other than Ramkrishna worshiped Goddess Kali. Other places worthy of visiting are the Howrah Bridge, Science city, Victoria Memorial built in 1921 that also consists of a museum of old paintings and arts from all over the world.
If you are a lover of books, visit the Asiatic society with its extensive library having a collection of about 117,000 books and 79,000 journals printed in almost all the major languages of the world. The Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary, Birla temple and the Dakshineshwara temple should never be left out. All in all, Kolkata is apt for visit by people in the festive season of Diwali who want to see an altogether different celebration of Diwali.
Goa- Go Gambling on Diwali in Special Way!
For people who want to relax and enjoy a good Diwali vacation by shaking a leg near the beach and gamble in the casinos, this is the place for you. This place is all set to be visited with friends and family with the numerous parties that can be enjoyed on the famous beaches like Agonda Beach, Mandrem Beach, Cola Beach, Candolim Beach and Colva Beach and many more. However, specific to Diwali, you can witness Narakasura ritual too here.
Diwali celebrations in Goa is based on the destruction of demon Narakasura who was killed by Lord Krishna. It is more similar to Dussehra ritual of destroying Ravana by Ram. Like Ravana, big effigies of Narakasura are made and then burnt on Narakasura Chaturdashi, the day before the main Diwali day. Competitions are held in every village and city of Goa to select the biggest and scariest effigy of Narakasur.
Along with witnessing this Narakasur ritual, you may also have a feel of Christian religion. Goa is basically a Christian town that has churches worthy of a visit. The St. Francis Church should not be missed. The other places worth visiting are Old Goa, the Chapora Fort, Shantadurga Temple and the Mahalsa temple near the sea shore. The casinos are another entertainment for fun loving people. In fact, gambling is one of the most popular activities during Diwali in Goa too. You might as well try your luck at one of Goa’s top casinos.
Don’t forget to visit the museums in Goa that are known to display the French and Christian artifacts along with jewelry, coins, handicrafts, beer and old alcohol beverages. The Navy museum here should also not be missed. You can also catch a glimpse of a diving Dolphin in the sea if you are lucky enough!
Amritsar- See Spectacular Golden Temple and Fireworks!
The Golden temple of Amritsar is draped with bright lit diyas on the Diwali evening each year making it an extravagant site for the tourists. The reflection of these diyas on the water makes it a beautiful sight not to be missed by those who love such beautiful scenes.
In Amritsar, each house is decorated with leaves and flowers as well as rangolis made by ladies with various colors. It is usually made at the entrance of the house and makes a beautiful display. Roaming around the city and watching such a graceful display of art everywhere can be a memorable experience. People prepare sweet and various other dishes that are then shared amongst the other locals who live nearby.
The relatives and friends visit each other’s homes and the exchange of gifts takes place which is more or less like the tradition of gift giving on Diwali in the rest of India. However, the Diwali night can be seen with many fireworks lighting up in the sky and this is one of the exclusive experiences that you can have in Amritsar on Diwali.
Varanasi- A Spiritual Diwali Awaits You!
Varanasi witnesses a true Diwali celebration with millions of lights and people who start off their day with Ganga-snan ritual followed by exploring bustling street markets that sell Diwali sweets and brightly colored clothes. At sunset, they soak the lamps and then illuminate the dark. Spiritual aura is crafted out by chants and recitals on the riverside. This can be the most sought after spiritual experience that you can have on Diwali just by visiting Varanasi and its Ghats!
The firecrackers are set off in every little lane of the city that won’t let you miss the usual Diwali experience too. Dev Deepawali is celebrated a week after Diwali which is known as the Diwali of Gods and you can extend your Diwali holidays till then to have a whole new sort of experience here. It is also a part of the Ganga Mahotsava festival, a showcase of Varanasi`s cultural heritage.
Kashmir- Traditional Diwali meets Beautiful Scenes!
In Kashmir, Diwali is celebrated as Sukhsuptika or the night of rejoicing and celebrations. Kashmiri people worship Lakshmi on Diwali day and light up their houses, streets as well as temples with clay lamps that use pure mustard oil. People also exchange fruits and Nabat-Naut, the traditional Kashmiri sweets, with their family, friends and neighbours. Though it is not very different from Diwali celebration in rest of India, it is a delight to see happy people wearing new clothes and traditional ornaments in the midst of scening Kashmir valley!
Kashmir is known to be the paradise on earth and has been off limits due to many reasons of national security but one can surely visit the beautiful place as the government of India is committed to the protection of tourists. Most of the people go to Kashmir and they enjoy staying in the house boats on the Dal Lake which is a prime spot. You can also enjoy the famous Kashmir winter snow by taking up skiing as a sport in the mountains and enjoy to the maximum. Enthusiasts have a lot more to look forward to the famous apple orchards that cannot be missed out for sure.
In Kashmir, you won’t miss shopping either. There are a lots of places to shop around at namely the Lal Market and the other local shopping areas as well as the markets near the Dal Lake. The handicrafts and the wool jackets made by the locals of Kashmir are worth buying here. You should also not forget to buy the famous Kashmir dry fruits and tea, popularly known as Kawa.
One thing that can never be missed out here is the popular scenic beauty and the numerous places to visit. The Mughal Gardens can be visited where various flowers add up to the beauty of the place.
Whatever Diwali vacation destination you select to be in this year, just enjoy the local traditions and rituals of the place and wonder about the diversities of grand celebrations along with one common factor- Diwali! Just think, what kind of experience do you wish to have this Diwali! And then, make your Diwali travel plan accordingly!
Already visited these vacation spots! Then go abroad. Many countries celebrate Diwali in such grand ways as are unimaginable! Read about these Top 12 International Destinations for Diwali Vacation